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Uniq First Half Meets Forecasts as Revenue Increases

Uniq Plc, a U.K. supplier of salads and sandwiches to supermarkets, met forecasts for the first half as revenue advanced in Britain and France.

U.K. sales increased 5 percent from a year earlier, the Gerrards Cross, England-based company said today in a statement. Revenue rose 2 percent in northern Europe and 4 percent in France. The company reported a first-half loss last year as sales declined 8.2 percent.

Uniq said it's ``confident'' of improving profit margins in the second half. After four years of losses, the food producer has cut its pension deficit, and eliminated debt by selling a Belgian salad-making unit and French spreads division for 288 million pounds ($585 million).

``We are encouraged by the improving sales trend overall,'' the company said in the statement. Uniq said its Minsterley desserts unit probably will break even for the year, even as higher raw-materials costs squeeze profit across the U.K. business.

The first-half loss will be worse than last year, according to Panmure Gordon & Co., which estimates a 6 million-pound loss. Uniq will have difficulty achieving its expected margin improvement in the second half as expenses climb, analyst Charles Hall said in a report issued today.

Dairy Prices

``We would highlight particular pressure points as dairy, wheat and plastic prices,'' the report said. ``The dairy price increases could cost 3 million pounds in a full year.''

Julian Walker, a Uniq spokesman, declined to disclose further details of the company's costs or profit expectations.

The company's shares remained unchanged at 235 pence in London. They have climbed 41 percent in the past year, the fourth- biggest increase in the FTSE All Share Food Producers Index (FAFOOD), which has added 27 percent.

Panmure maintained its ``sell'' recommendation on the stock and boosted its share-price estimate to 180 pence from 145 pence, citing a less conservative view of Uniq's pension fund.

The company is set to report first-half results on Sept. 12.

To contact the reporter on this story: Alistair Gray in London agray10@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Keith Campbell at k.campbell@bloomberg.net

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