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EDITIONS
 Monday, 27 January, 2003, 17:20 GMT
Cider maker's shares slump
Bottles of cider produced by HP Bulmer
HP Bulmer owns several major cider brands
Shares in the UK's biggest cider maker, HP Bulmer, have slumped by nearly a third over worries about the firm's financial health.

Late last Friday, the maker of Strongbow and Scrumpy Jack said poor sales over the Christmas and New Year period meant it was in danger of breaching the terms of bank loans.

Hereford-based Bulmer said it was considering the sale of its distribution arm - The Beer Seller - and a rights issue in order to reduce debts.

It added that it would also consider possible takeover bids for the group.

Bulmer shares ended Monday's trading session down 40.5p, or 30.8%, at 91p.

Lack of fizz

This time last year the share price was above 400p but it has tumbled following a string of bad news.

Five profit warnings have been issued and a 3.8m hole in its accounts was uncovered last autumn which led to the departure of its chief executive and finance director.

Miles Templeman, the former head of the Whitbread Beer Company, took over as chief executive last month and has said he will continue with the restructuring programme which will see the firm focusing on its UK operations.

The firm is selling its Australian and New Zealand drinks operation for about 22.5m.

Even allowing for this sale, Bulmer said it was "unable to confirm that the group has sufficent working capital for the group's requirements over the next 12 months".

And it said that as trading in Europe and the US was expected to worsen, it was in talks with its bankers to refinance loans which were only renegotiated in November.


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See also:

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