MARKET REPORT: Hilton Food crashes as cost of living crunch bites

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Hilton Food Group suffered its darkest day on the stock market yesterday after warning that its full-year profit would be lower than expected.

The FTSE 250 firm, which supplies fresh food to the likes of Tesco and Waitrose, said it faced soaring interest rates while customers pulled back on spending amid the cost of living crunch.

Its bleak half-year results sent shares tumbling 28.3 per cent, or 266p, to 675p on its worst day since joining the stock market in 2007.

Costs crunch: Tesco and Waitrose supplier Hilton said it was not ‘immune’ from the impact of rising inflation, with its seafood business hit with ‘unprecedented’ raw material price increases

Hilton said it was not ‘immune’ from the impact of rising inflation but remains ‘well-placed’ as it caters for the UK, Europe and Australia.

Boss Philip Heffer injected some cheer for investors by hailing the acquisition of smoked salmon producer Foppen in March which helped Hilton break into the US market. Posting half-year results, Hilton said revenue rose 20.4 per cent to £2billion on the back of volume growth and price increases on raw materials. 

Profit slid 3.9 per cent to £34.4million due to higher interest costs. The group also cut its interim dividend to 7.1p from 8.2p last year. 

AJ Bell investment director Russ Mould said: ‘Hilton Foods is suffering from the cost of living crisis as consumers are watching every penny.’

Hilton’s slump filtered through the sector as shares in meat producer Cranswick slid 5.3 per cent, or 164p, to 2940p, supermarket sandwich supplier Greencore fell 2.7 per cent, or 2.35p, to 86.3p and the maker of Mr Kipling, Premier Foods, sank 1.3 per cent, or 1.4p, to 104.6p.

The FTSE 100 was up 0.07 per cent, or 4.77 points, to 7282.07 and the FTSE 250 also added 0.2 per cent, or 37.12 points, to 18886.32.

Rolls-Royce was among the biggest blue-chip risers after it completed the sale of Spanish engine firm ITP Aero to a group of investors led by the private equity firm Bain Capital for around £1.56billion.

Stock Watch – Longboat Energy

Shares in Longboat Energy slid after a well that was estimated to contain 254m barrels of oil turned out to be dry.

The North Sea oil group said the Copernicus well located off the coast of Norway will be plugged and abandoned.

Polish company PGNiG led the exploration, with Longboat holding a 10pc stake.

‘The drilling operations were carried out well within the time schedule and below budget,’ a Longboat spokesman added. 

Shares fell 8.9 per cent, or 4p, to 41p.

Rolls said it would use the sale proceeds of £1.5billion to help repay a £2billion loan as shares in the jet engine maker gained 2.3 per cent, or 1.7p, to 76.86p.

Heavyweight pharmaceutical giants were hit with downgrades from Credit Suisse.

The broker lowered AstraZeneca’s rating to ‘neutral’ from ‘outperform’, sending shares down 0.2 per cent, or 22p, to 10130p.

Credit Suisse hiked GSK’s rating to ‘neutral’ from ‘underperform’ but slashed its target price to 1430p from 1630p on the basis that it thinks the company could have to pay around £4.35billion in damages related to the heartburn drug Zantac.

But GSK shares held firm to close up 0.4 per cent, or 5.4p, at 1337.6p.

Investors in B&M can start thinking about life after Simon Arora as the discount retailer announced the start date for his replacement. 

Finance boss Alex Russo will take over as chief executive from September 26 while Arora, who has been at the helm since December 2004, will stay on the board as an executive director until next April. Shares took a dive by 2.2 per cent, or 7.7p, to 345.1p.

Engineering firm Renishaw said orders are cooling from the semiconductor and electronics sector amid increasing market caution.

The mid-cap group, which specialises in 3D printing, has also faced rising labour costs.

Posting a record set of results, the company said revenue rose 19 per cent to £671.1million in the year to end of June while profit soared 37 per cent to £163.7million. Renishaw shares fell 1 per cent, or 36p, to 3484p.

Trainline shares were also on the slide despite a positive set of half-year results.

The ticketing app said ticket sales rose 17 per cent to £2.2billion from March to the end of August.

Even though Trainline maintained its full-year guidance on ticket sales, revenue growth and profit, shares inched down 2.1 per cent, or 7.7p, to 356.6p.

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