C&C names new chairman amid return to profit ahead of plan

Euros, good weather and ‘staycations’ boost drinks group

Bulmers maker C&C saw a return to revenue growth.  Photograph: Bryan O’Brien

Bulmers maker C&C saw a return to revenue growth. Photograph: Bryan O’Brien

 

C&C has named Ralph Findlay, the outgoing chief executive of UK pub group Marstons, as its next chairman as the cider and beer maker revealed on Thursday that it had returned to profit ahead of plan.

Mr Findlay, who is due to retire from Marstons next month, will succeed C&C’s current chairman Stewart Gilliland next July.

The Dublin-based, but London-listed maker of Bulmers cider and Tennent’s beer said in a trading statement that it returned to profit and underlying cash generation in May, ahead of internal expectations, after the easing of pub restrictions in the UK the previous month.

Business was further boosted by the reopening of Irish outdoor hospitality in June, the Euro football championships, generally good summer weather on both sides of the Irish Sea, and people holidaying at home, it said.

The group, which also distributes branded beer, cider, wine, spirits and soft drinks across Britain and Ireland, said its net revenue in the six months to the end of August, its first fiscal half, was expected to be €657 million, compared with €398 million the same period last year.

Still, it was well off the €896 million for the corresponding six months a year earlier, before Covid struck.

Operating profit is predicted to be €16 million, compared to last year’s €12 million loss, and a profit of €66 million for the first half of the 2020 fiscal year.

Bulmers grew its share of the cider market, while Tennent’s has broadly maintained its share.

C&C Group raised £151 million (€176.8 million) in a share sale in June, mainly to existing investors, to shore up its finances, after being hit hard by the Covid-19 crisis. Chief executive David Forde timed the equity-raise to take advantage of renewed optimism around hospitality as pandemic restrictions continue to be relaxed as vaccination programmes gathered pace.

Net debt was €246 million at end of August 2021.

C&C said it was partly insulated from the shortage of heavy goods vehicle drivers in the UK, as the group’s distribution network was controlled inhouse. It broadly met customer demand through the peak summer trading period, and is working with partners to meet the resurgence in demand.

“Despite sector challenges, our business has shown its inherent strength and cash generation capability in the first half of FY2022,” said Mr Forde.

“As the on-trade has progressively reopened, we returned to profitability and worked closely with our customers to meet the resurgence in consumer demand. We continue to invest in our brands, most notably with the recent launch of multichannel advertising campaigns for our iconic Tennent’s, Bulmers and Magners brands. Our focus remains on building a better business by further developing our brand and system strength, while continuing to navigate the near-term capacity constraints our industry faces.”