Banham company returns to profits

A RESTRUCTURING at the top of one of the region's best known poultry producers has led to a dramatic turnaround in fortunes.

A RESTRUCTURING at the top of one of the region's best known poultry producers has led to a dramatic turnaround in fortunes.

Attleborough-based Banham Poultry has emerged from a difficult few years and has returned to profit, and is now in the running to be named Europe's top turnaround business.

In 2005, the company - which includes high-street names Morrisons and Aldi among its clients - began to diversify its operations in a bid to deal with waste from the production line. As a result of that diversification, the business saw a large increase in debt as it spent money on its Clay Hall Farm site in Lenwade and a composting operation in Carleton Rode.

However, mounting losses over the next few years led to an overhaul of the business in early 2008. There were major changes to the management team, with four directors leaving the company and chief executive Martyn Bromley and non-executive Barry Skipper joining the board.

Banham, which employs nearly 600 people and brings in agency staff to cope with seasonal trends, sold its loss-making subsidiaries in Lenwade and Carleton Rode and the company refocused on its core role of chicken production.

The changes meant that the company was able to report a monthly profit last September for the first time in 18 months. Debts have been slashed, and sales in the year to this September were up from �80m to �90m. Trading profit in 2008-09 is forecast to be more than �4m, as opposed to last year's loss of nearly �2m.

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Banham chairman Michael Foulger said: 'Subject to the final audit, it looks like the difference between the loss incurred in September 2008 and the profit at net trading for the year just ended will be in excess of �5m.'

As a result, the company has been shortlisted in the private-company category in the Institute for Turnaround's annual awards, with the winner due to be announced in December.

Lloyds TSB, which nominated Banham for the turnaround award, said: 'The new board quickly identified the problems and set about resolving them.

'Simple but effective methods were used, [and] clear and precise decisions were taken and acted upon in a very efficient and professional manner to stop the losses and drain on cash.

'What was achieved in 12 months was remarkable.'

Mr Foulger said Banham was now in a strong position to build on its turnaround.

'Market research indicates that in the next decade or so, poultry will become an increasingly important protein source,' he said.

'The successful turnaround enables us to evaluate several options. One possibility is to move back from our site in Station Road, Attleborough, to Bunns Bank, Old Buckenham, which we vacated about 10 years ago following a major fire.

'Alternatively, we can implement the planning consent we currently have to double the size of Station Road. This to a large extent would depend on what value could be realised for Station Road for alternative use.

'Either way, increased production efficiency with modern plant is key to future growth.'

Between a quarter and a third of Banham's chickens are produced for the wholesale market, with some of the country's biggest supermarkets among its other clients.