Südzucker confirms forecast
At the General Meeting of Südzucker AG Mannheim/Ochsenfurt on 29 July 2008, the shareholders agreed to the proposal from the Supervisory Board and Executive Board to distribute a dividend of EUR 0.40 (previous year: 0.55) per share. The reasons given for the cut in dividend were the reduced Group profit from the 2007/08 financial year and the burdens still existing in the current 2008/09 financial year from the last year of the transition phase in the Sugar segment.
The Executive Board confirms with the outlook for the 2008/09 financial year the forecasts made to date. Group sales revenues of between EUR 5.6 and 5.8 billion (previous year: 5.8 billion) are expected, with a fall in sales in the Sugar segment being offset by a rise in revenues in the Special Products and Fruit segments. A range of between EUR 230 and 260 million (previous year: 233 million) was given for the operating profit in the Group; a rise in the Sugar segment to at least EUR 120 million (previous year: 61 million) is offset - because of the dramatic rise in raw material costs - by a clear decline in results for the Special Products and Fruit segments.
Plans for the 2009/10 financial year are still based on sales revenues of around EUR 5.8 billion and a rise in operating results to at least EUR 400 million. It is expected that the decreased sales in the Sugar segment will be compensated by rising sales in the Special Products and Fruit segments and that the operating result in the Sugar segment will recover again after the completion of the EU restructuring phase. An improved operating result is also expected in the Special Products and Fruit segments.
The Südzucker Group feels that, with its three segments, it is well placed to deal with the challenges of the future and to enjoy further growth. As regards sugar, Südzucker is still by far the number 1. The company will defend and expand this position, through increases in efficiency and also through utilising the market opportunities arising. In the Special Products segment, the BENEO division, with isomalt and oligofructose, is in a leading position worldwide. After the start-up of the plant in Pischelsdorf/Austria in the early summer, the Bioethanol division will also be starting production at the end of the year in the completed plant in Wanze/Belgium. Together with the production plant in Zeitz/Germany, the division thus has a capacity of around a million cubic metres, which will make it the market leader in Europe. This market position is also held by the Freiberger Pizza/Pasta Group and the Portion Packaging division. The Starch Division is benefiting from its innovation-based niche strategy. In the Fruit segment, the Südzucker Group is the world market leader in the area of fruit preparation and the European market leader in fruit juice concentrates.
Expectations for the sugar beet harvest in 2008 are positive. A good to above-average harvest is expected throughout the Group, with expectations at a good average in Germany and Belgium, and at above-average in France and Eastern Europe. In Germany, there are regional differences, with a very good yield expected in South Bavaria and the New Federal States, and slightly above-average yields likely in Franconia and Baden-Württemberg, despite the dry conditions. In Poland, the decision to start operations has been proved right, with a very good harvest being expected because of the soil and weather conditions in the south of the country. In Moldavia, the good weather and successful transfer of sugar beet farming expertise mean that the harvest will be good to above-average.