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DURBAN – International food services business Bid Corporation (Bidcorp) has reported improved trading conditions in South Africa in the four months to end April, despite subdued consumer spending in the country.

In emerging markets division, the group said South Africa overall was showing improvement, despite weak economic conditions.

“Bidfood and the Chipkins Puratos joint-venture have achieved pleasing growth through good cost containment and improved margins. The aftermath of the listeriosis crisis in processed meats continues to impact the Crown Food Group business,” the group said.

However, it added that the food inflation trajectory was up, which would start to assist Bidfood.

“Sales have continued to show real growth, with the gross margin percentage increasing.

“This has offset higher operating costs impacted by rising wage costs, due to full employment levels in numerous economies and higher fuel and energy expenses. But currency volatility has positively impacted Bidcorp’s rand translated results during the four-month period.

“The rand translated results are approximately 4.5 percent higher than the constant currency results to the end of April 2019,” the group said.

The rise in fuel prices, low economic growth coupled with subdued consumer spending in the country saw Pioneer Foods’ earnings declining by 14 percent in the six months to end March.

Bidcorp was unbundled from Bidvest and listed separately in 2016 and has operations in more than 37 countries across the globe. 

The group said overall trading margins were being maintained, with economic growth in the UK, Europe and Australasia remaining supportive of the food service industry. 

In the reporting period, the group has seen limited acquisition opportunities and pointed to unrealistic vendor valuation expectations, which resulted in fewer bolt-on acquisitions being concluded.

The group said the focus now remained on extracting the benefits from some of the more recent acquisitions in Australia, Iberia and Germany.

Bidcorp continues to be on the lookout for possible acquisition opportunities, both in current markets and in new territories.

In the three months to March, Bidcorp acquired Punjab Kitchen, a niche ready meals business, for R291million, inclusive of acquisition costs, through its subsidiary Bidfood UK.

In the UK Bidcorp is looking to dispose of its UK Logistics business. “We are in advanced negotiations for the disposal of the CD Business, Bestfood Logistics, to a reputable international buyer,” the group said.

Despite their Brexit fears in the UK, the group said Bidfood UK continues to perform well.

“Sales volumes continue to grow in the independent sector as our focus on service levels continues,” the group said.