(Alliance News) - Kerry Group PLC on Thursday said it plans a further share buyback in 2024 after it completes its current EUR300 million programme, as the food ingredients maker reported higher profit last year despite lower revenue.

Tralee, Ireland-based Kerry launched the current share buyback programme back in November and has bought back 1.4 million shares for EUR102 million so far. It also on Thursday declared a cash final dividend of 80.8 euro cents per share, up 10% on a year before. This brings the total cash payout for 2023 to 115.4 cents, also up 10% on 2022.

Kerry reported pretax profit of EUR822.6 million in 2023, up 18% from EUR699.0 million in 2022. After-tax, profit was EUR728.1 million, up 20% from EUR605.5 million. This was despite revenue declining by 8.6% to EUR8.02 billion from EUR8.77 billion.

The biggest part of the revenue fall was the result of business disposals, accounting for 5.1 points of the 8.6% decline. Currency movements contributed 2.9 points. The rest came from price and volume reductions.

Group volume was down 0.9% in 2023, compared to a 6.1% increase in 2022. Volume in the Taste & Nutrition division, the bigger of Kerry's two main divisions, was up 1.1%, but it fell by 6.5% in Dairy Ireland.

Kerry highlighted that its earnings before interest, tax, depreciation and amortisation margin increased by 60 basis point in 2023 to 14.5%, led by Taste & Nutrition's Ebitda margin of 17.0%.

"We delivered a solid performance in 2023 recognising varying market dynamics across our regions," said Chief Executive Officer Edmond Scanlon.

"Overall Taste & Nutrition volume growth represented an outperformance of our markets. APMEA and Europe achieved good volume growth led by a strong performance in the foodservice channel, while volumes in North America were impacted by stocking dynamics and softer market conditions. Dairy Ireland performance reflected challenging market conditions across the year."

Looking ahead, Kerry guided 5% to 8% growth in adjusted earnings per share at constant currencies in 2024. Adjusted EPS was 430.1 cents in 2023, down from 440.6 cents in 2022, though up 1.2% at constant currency.

Kerry shares were down 1.8% to EUR80.30 in London on Thursday morning.

By Tom Waite, Alliance News editor

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