Baxters beats the crunch to dip back into acquisitions

BAXTERS – the iconic Scottish soup firm – is on the cusp of making a second acquisition in Australia in as many years and is sitting on a "very attractive" war chest for overseas expansion.

In a rare interview yesterday, chairwoman Audrey Baxter said the company has returned to the acquisition trail after emerging from the recession in a "positive" position.

Accounts to be filed at Companies House next month will show Baxters staged a significant recovery during its last financial year, to 30 May 2009.

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Pre-tax profits grew to just over 5 million from 235,000 previously. Turnover was also up, rising 6 per cent to some 124m.

The private firm had seen its profits almost wiped out during 2007-8 due to a "difficult" integration of Canadian firm CanGro Soups, which it acquired in 2007.

That integration coincided with the start of the global recession and surging raw material costs.

Chairwoman Baxter, a fourth generation member of the family that founded the firm in Fochabers in 1868, said CanGro was now making a significant contribution to the overall business.

Canada was Baxters' fastest growing market last year and it is now the second biggest player in the Canadian soup market.

She said she was equally positive about the current year, during which she anticipates results to return to "historic performances". Demand for its tinned soups, pickles and jams has continued with sales hitting "similar" levels to the 6 per cent growth of 2008-9.

In addition to the Australian acquisition, Baxters is eyeing further expansion in Central Europe, where it already has a factory in Poland. "We are quite acquisitive right now," Baxter said.