Cooking appliance maker Aga Foodservice Group (AFG) posted a 6.4 percent rise in underlying first-half profit and says it expects a good full year on strong fall orders in Europe and the UK, a Reuters report said.
The maker of retro-style range cookers and commercial catering equipment said it was on track to meet its target of selling 15,000 Aga-branded stoves in 2006. Aga has also pinned its hopes on a new deep-fat fryer it plans to introduce into the fast-food sector and said it expected significant sales in the year ahead.
The fryer, which uses 36-percent less oil than conventional fryers, is currently being trialed in the UK by two major fast-food chains. AFG CEO William McGrath said he was confident of signing at least one of the big three – McDonald’s, Burger King or KFC – before the end of 2004.
Around 300 units of a potential 10,000 had been sold so far, McGrath said in a conference call with the media.
Aga said its foodservice division, which sells cookers, refrigerators and bakery equipment to hotels, restaurants and supermarkets, was showing signs of improvement following a sustained lull in capital investment in new catering equipment.
Orders at its UK refrigeration business rose 15 percent even before winning a contract for the new Wembley Stadium. Profits fell in the U.S., due to higher steel margins and rising medical insurance costs for workers.
Mr. McGrath also played down fears of a slowdown in British consumer spending after a series of interest rate hikes this year to curb record levels of personal debt.
“The fact that there could be a consumer slow down keeps us on our toes, and to address that we need good product flow and to internationalize the business, hence our efforts to expand on the continent and into North America,” Mr. McGrath said.
The company had BPD 19 million (U.S. $34.1 million) in cash to acquire new businesses, particularly in central Europe.
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