British starch and sugars group Tate & Lyle said on Thursday that it expected strong results for the six months ended September, but said growth in second half profits depended on higher sweetener prices.
Tate & Lyle, whose products increase paper strength and sweeten soft drinks, said it expected first half results to be materially above the year-ago period as trading in the first five months of the year beat their own expectations.
But the company said second half performance was dependent on higher sweetener prices and the impact of higher raw material costs. Tate & Lyle can partly offset the increased cost of raw material maize by selling on maize by-products like corn oil.
"We anticipate that the results for the full year will revert to a traditional trading pattern with a significant weighting of profits towards the first half," the company said in a statement.
Shares were trading 1.9 per cent higher at 368-3/4 pence by 0738 GMT, giving it a market value of around £1.7 billion (€2.7bn).
The firm said net debt had continued to decline. Debt stood at £639 million at the end of March as the company sold poorly performing businesses to focus on US and European starch and British, Portuguese and Canadian sugar.
Tate & Lyle has reshaped its business, quitting US sugar, after depressed sugar prices and the volatile commodity nature of many of its products led to four profit warnings between March 2000 and February 2001.
The firm gave no details on how the search for a new chief executive was going. Larry Pillard, who oversaw the company's return to profit and reined-in debt, said in June he would step down at the end of the year.
A spokesman for the company said there was no time limit on finding a replacement. He declined to say if they had their eye on anyone in particular.
He said the firm was still reviewing options for two possible sales - profitable molasses firm UM North America and storage firm United Storage - after it withdrew the sale of its United Molasses business in September.
The company will announce its first half results on 7 November.