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11-04-2003

Annual general meeting trading update


At the annual general meeting of the company held today the following statement was made: 

"In recent years, the Group's investments in major manufacturing projects in Southern Africa have generated the planned growth in sales, boosted by exports, and while many new opportunities in marketing and sales have been created, the Group's results are now more sensitive to exchange rate fluctuations. The movement in the Rand is not helping us at the moment; it continued to strengthen in the first quarter of 2003 and in that period, the domestic maize price almost halved. The financial effects of the application of AC 133 on maize procurement contracts are currently being assessed. Furthermore, a lower sugar crop is expected this year following poor rainfall in the cane growing areas. Earnings for the first six months of 2003 are therefore likely to show a major reduction, with some improvement expected during the second half.

Against the background of an uncertain world economy and exchange rate volatility, our underlying operations remain sound, with continued growth in sales revenues. Management is focused on reducing overheads, minimizing expenditure and maximizing cash flows. 

The Group's balance sheet is strong and despite the anticipated setback in earnings, the Group will endeavour to maintain its interim dividend for the half year."

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