Bright Foods recorded revenues of $733.7 million in 2018, compared to $704 million in 2017, according to the financial report lodged with the Australian Securities & Investment Commission.
But cost of sales, warehousing and marketing expenses, financial costs and tax expenses all rose in the last year, punishing the company’s profit by $7 million.
Bell Potter analyst Jonathan Snape on Thursday told investors that the outlook for agriculture and consumer good companies — including the listed Bega Cheese, Australian Agricultural Company and Select Harvest — was improving with higher prices and “more normalised weather conditions”.
UBS equities analyst Ben Gilbert also pointed to rising supermarket sales — up 5.5 per cent over the year — and an acceleration in January and February to recommend Treasury Wine Estate shares.
Despite early rapid international growth, Bright Food has moved to scale back many of its holdings in recent years, most recently offloading British cereal producer Weetabix for $2.45 billion.
It has also appeared to shelve plans to list the conglomerate’s Australian business on the Hong Kong Stock Exchange in 2017, having posted a $20.7 million profit one year earlier.
The appetite of major Chinese conglomerates and their billionaire backers for Australian assets has dissipated since the $280 million purchase of dairy giant Van Diemen’s Land Company and Shanghai Pengxin’s attempt at acquiring the Kidman & Co cattle operation in 2016 for around $350 million.
In 2010, Bright Food lost out to Singapore-listed Wilmar International for the $1.75 billion purchase of CSR’s sugar unit Sucrogen.
However, the Herald and the Age last year revealed Chinese-Australian billionaire Hui Wing Mao’s Shimao Property Holdings had run the ruler over the country’s richest agricultural operation, the sprawling Consolidated Pastoral Company once owned by media mogul Kerry Packer.
Bright Food, which is run by former Goodman Fielder executive Geoff Erby, could not be reached for comment yesterday.
Kylar Loussikian is The Sydney Morning Herald’s CBD columnist.