30 Aug 2011

Goodman Fielder mulls big changes as profits drop

7:10 am on 30 August 2011

Goodman Fielder's New Zealand operations could undergo a major shake-up to counter what the firm's new chief executive describes as an unacceptable earnings performance.

The Australasian food firm's books tumbled into the red as it wrote down the value of its baking business.

The company lost $A167 million in the year to the end of June, a turnaround from the $A161 million profit recorded a year earlier.

Weak trading in the company's baking division forced an $A300 million non-cash impairment charge during the year.

If that charge is stripped out, profit still fell 17% to $S133 million.

Sales fell almost four percent to $A2.6 billion.

Goodman Fielder's brands in New Zealand include Meadowlea, Vogels and Edmond's.

The company's new chief executive, Chris Delaney, is part way through a major review of the company, and says he's become very aware the company's divisions are operating with a silo mentality.

Three retail divisions operate in the same New Zealand and Australian market and there is a significant duplication of effort including in warehousing, logisitics, and selling.

"The other day I was in a store and we had four retail sales reps in the store at the same time, calling on different parts of the store," he said.

He said the company is looking at whether it will move from a product-based to a geographic-based structure.

Mr Delaney says Goodman Fielder plans to use New Zealand as the test market and is consulting staff, before it updates investors in November.

The company's also looking at other areas of the business, including the range of baked goods available, capital spending and transport and logistics.

The company says its baking business experienced a solid first half but conditions deteriorated in the second half, as higher commodity and energy prices pushed up costs and the market was affected by deep discounting and a resurgence of private label products.

The unfavourable exchange rate and the Christchurch earthquake also hit earnings within its dairy division.