15 June, 2007
T hese are dark and difficult days for Inter Link (pg 4). Many of us were delighted to see it soar on the AIM listings to a height of £7.70 and now, those same shares are virtually worthless.
Commissioning problems at its new distribution centre have played a major part in its downfall. But there is rarely just one contributory factor. If you look back over recent years, other companies like Inter Link, assembled under one umbrella from a group of disparate entities, run into difficulties as they rationalise, consolidate and bring their assets up to scratch. Heavy new factory investment is required to meet modern food industry standards, with efficient new distribution systems to match, because woe betide anyone who deli- vers late or inaccurately to a supermarket. Then, operating and accounting systems have to be harmonised and upgraded, again requiring experienced management expertise, often in short supply at companies constructed through a string of small-scale deals.Finally, excess acquisition borrowings have to be managed down, while funding higher investment and servicing debt - not easy when margins are under pressure from higher energy costs and rising commodity prices. With high debt levels, success can so quickly turn on its head if profits go sour and, sadly, it did. It will be sorted. Inter Link chairman Jeremy Hamer talks straight. He is totally realistic and I have no doubt he will secure the best outcome, and soon.Elsewhere, the long-awaited Whole Foods Market American supermarket group has opened in upmarket Ken-sington, London, charging £4.99 for a sandwich and £34.99 for a seven-inch pie. Would you pay it? Yes, if you could afford to live in Kensington, but elsewhere? Hmmm!Nearby, our home-grown Marks & Spencer has responded by trialling a new-look bakery and patisserie, with pavement prize offers of fresh fruit to draw in the punters. It was a success! And Waitrose has announced plans to open an ethical, organic and wholefood-style store in Marylebone, London. So Whole Foods is facing strong British competition. It will be interesting to see how trading settles down when the novelty has worn off. By way of light relief, this week we look at the 'Cake with Brakes' (pg 16)! And could sawdust pellets be the oven fuel of the future (pg 23)? Quite possibly so.