Are we looking at a revival in the economy?
We have turned the corner on growth on the economy front. UK growth fell in 2005 to 1.8 per cent, its lowest rate since 1992, according to the Office for National Statistics.
This is way below the Chancellor's original growth forecast of 3 to 3.5 per cent. Britain is also slipping away rapidly on the export front.
The final quarter, however, provides a slight gleam in the clouds, with strong figures reported from restaurants, hotels and shops, boosted by a 0.6 per cent growth, an indication that we might be in an upturn.
A cut in interest rates in February is unlikely due to the highest money supply figures - up 12.1 per cent in November - since the high inflation year of 1990.
Meanwhile, takeover speculation sent the UK stockmarket to a five-year high with the FTSE 100 index standing at 5,787.
Profit warning from Real Good Food
The market was unsettled when Real Good Food, the frozen food company, announced a profit warning due to aggressive competition in the grocery retail sector. The good news is that the company's management is confident things will get better so far as earning revenue in the next trading year. Numis, the broker, has cut its current year profit forecast from £7.7 million to £7 million.
Food & Drink Group - good trading over Christmas
Hartford, the bar and restaurant operator, is changing its name to The Food & Drink Group. The latest pre tax loss was £20,000 for the year to September 24, 2005 against a profit of £70,000 for the previous year. Trading has been reasonable since last September, with a good performance over Christmas. Management is concentrating on rolling out the Henry J Bean grill and bar business it scooped up for £5.8 million last autumn. This will push the chain beyond the M25 while growth overseas will be made through franchises.
Northern Foods - advised to cut dividend payout
Northern Foods, which recently issued a profit warning for its full year due to soaring energy costs, saw its shares hit a two-year low. Broker, Panmure Gordon, has advised that Northern should cut its dividend - it is one of the highest yielding shares on the stockmarket. The opinion is that Northern should cut its profit margin target to a level which is attainable.There are also worries that Northern's pension fund deficit could be higher than the £105 million black hole already reported.
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