Bega Cheese statutory profit hits $21.3m despite drought, fires and COVID-19

Bega Cheese has weathered "brutal" drought, "frightening" bushfires and coronavirus confusion to post a full-year normalised after-tax profit increase of three per cent, to $31.9 million.

On a statutory basis, profit after tax jumped a big 384 per cent for the year to $21.3m, up from $4.4m a year ago.

The trading figures reflected a year of strong growth in Bega's international branded business, but not quite strong enough to offset the impact of reduced margins from Bega's bulk dairy ingredients, nutritional products and food services business caused by coronavirus disruption.

"It has been an astounding year - a year like no other," said Bega Cheese executive chairman Barry Irvin.

"We began the year in the grips of drought which contributed to an already very competitive milk procurement environment and then managed never-before-seen bushfires.

"While still managing the impacts of those difficult circumstances COVID-19 was upon us, resulting in a major correction in global dairy commodity prices, a collapse in Australian and international food service demand and an increase in Australian retail demand."

Normalised earnings before interest tax depreciation and amortisation were down 2pc on the previous year, but still at the upper end of the company's predictions made last October.

Bega's total revenue lifted 5 per cent, of $73m to $1.49 billion, thanks largely to significant cash generation from its grocery brand businesses and a 15 per cent rise in export sales to $523m.

The extra cash flow enabled the company to shave $52m from its debt load, cutting debt to $236m.

Bega declared a fully franked final dividend of 5 cents a share, payable on October 7.

"I'm particularly proud of this year's business performance given the circumstances we faced." Mr Irvin said.

"Our values and culture always come to the fore in challenging times."

Bega Cheese reported strong growth in its export business continued growth in domestic grocery operations, particularly across core spread categories.

Vegemite sales grew almost 5 per cent and Bega's peanut butter sales growth hit 14.3 per cent.

The company also launched a number of new products including a new Happi nutraceutical formula range for children, containing lactoferrin made at the company's new Koroit plant, and it's Australian sourced B honey line.

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