Bega says Asia will drive earnings
Bega says Asia will drive earnings

Australia's biggest cheesemaker says demand from Asia will be a big driver for earnings this year and it's confident of overcoming a volatile global dairy market.

Bega Cheese said its domestic performance had been affected by a change to its product mix, tax costs following the acquisition of Tatura Milk, and "one-off events" such as flooding and fires at local facilities.

The high Australian dollar and lower international dairy prices had affected sales of its packaged cheese overseas in the 2012 financial year, it said.

The cheese maker today delivered a net profit for the 2012 financial year largely unchanged at $17.53 million compared to $17 million in the corresponding 12 months.

Revenues were flat at $926 million, although sales to Australian customers outperformed international sales.

Executive chairman Barry Irvin last year's result was not normal for Bega as it had, historically, reported fairly consistent profit growth.

"It's fair to say that Bega will return to our more historical profits and ideally build on that from the perspective of new business," Mr Irvin said.

"Global diary prices actually came down in the latter half of the financial year and these results are dealing with (that)."

Mr Irvin said Bega expected its fortunes would change with the major drought crippling parts of the US.

"Those dynamics are therefore seeing dairy markets improving around the world as I speak," Mr Irvin said.

Soaring demand for infant formula, mozzarella and cream cheese in parts of Asia are another bright prospect for the dairy giant.

"We ... identify there are many food service opportunities in Asia, the Middle East and Oceania, and that will be something that our sales team will be focused in the 2013 year and beyond," Mr Irvin said.

Mr Irvin said requests from Asia for its cream cheese had been flowing at such a rate that the company was finding it hard to keep up demand.

Tatura Milk has started ramping up cream cheese production this year and it's expected the process will be finalised in 2013.

Mr Irvin said while the company was pleased with its five-year contract to supply Coles-branded cheese to the supermarket giant, the deal was yet to result in an earnings boost.

"We'll see some benefit, but we're not getting carried away with the prediction in change because it's a little bit of an internal shift in our customer profile."

Bega shares were flat $1.70 at 1.49pm.

The West Australian

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