30 Jul 97 - Burger chain leaves France as sales fall
By Susannah Herbert in Paris
Telegraph ... Wednesday 30 July 1997
Burger King is pulling out of France after 16 years as the country's love affair with the hamburger shows signs of cooling .
The British-owned fast-food chain will close its 39 outlets by the end of the year, with the loss of 550 jobs. Last year, hamburger consumption in France stagnated after years of growth. Burger King's turnover fell from 325 million francs in 1995 (£32.5 million) to 300 million francs last year.
Even McDonald's, the market-leader - found recently in a British court to be exploitative of children and cruel to animals - lost 10 per cent of its French customers, half of them frightened off by the BSE crisis .
Burger King said yesterday that the French withdrawal was not because of a popular revolt against hamburgers. A spokesman said: "It's simply that we are not making an acceptable profit. We are third in the French market, behind McDonald's and Quick and we decided we would be better off investing in Britain, Spain and Germany.
Both McDonald's and its nearest competitor, Quick, have continued to open new restaurants and launch new lines in the hope of whetting French appetites. The latest attempt to woo "sophisticated" French tastes was the McDonald's "McDeluxe", a burger in which tomato ketchup was replaced by a mustard-and-pepper sauce. Quick hit back with Le Pepper Toast, an "adult" burger.
29 Jul 97 - BSE payments: Farmers attack end of rendering aid
By Alison Maitland
Financial Times ... Tuesday July 29 1997
Farmers face further financial hardship because of government moves to end aid payments that helped the rendering industry cope with the beef crisis, the National Farmers' Union said.
Temporary compensation to renderers was introduced by the Conservative government in March last year after it banned meat and bonemeal - the main by-product from rendered-down cattle carcasses - from all farm animal feed.
The ban, together with the European Union's ban on exports of all UK beef products, left meat, bonemeal and tallow, the other by-product, without a market. The government stepped in with money to enable renderers to continue disposing of animal waste, preventing a collapse in the beef supply chain.
Now Mr Jack Cunningham, agriculture minister, has decided to phase out the scheme, with payments ending next March . This is in spite of pressure from the meat industry to maintain financial support until markets for the by-products reopen.
Mr Ian Gardiner, NFU policy director, said: "The costs will have to be shared among the beef chain, which is in a pretty parlous state." Abattoirs were already operating at very low margins and the strong pound was attracting cheap beef imports, preventing the extra costs being passed to the consumer. This suggested that farmers would bear the brunt.
"Nobody could claim this aid [to renderers] in perpetuity but the argument is about how quickly the phasing out should take place," Mr Gardiner said. He acknowledged that the market for meat and bonemeal would be closed for some time but new processing techniques at high temperatures and pressures offered the possibility that tallow could be used in the manufacture of soap, which could then be exported.
The government is already facing strong criticism from the farming industry over its decision to cut payments from next week to farmers putting cows into the slaughter scheme for cattle aged over 30 months.
But Mr Cunningham said that extending support to renderers would entail "considerable additional cost" for which there was no provision in public spending plans.
Government aid to the rendering industry was £87m in 1996-97 and is budgeted at £59m this financial year.
Mr Cunningham made clear when he took office in May that he was appalled at the £3.5bn-plus cost of the BSE crisis to taxpayers.
29 Jul 97 - Experts find BSE cases 'in clusters'
By Aisling Irwin, Science Correspondent
Telegraph ... uesday 29 July 1997
Scientists have uncovered a clustering of BSE cases around the country, with 10 per cent of cattle herds harbouring 80 per cent of the disease.
Large herds had higher rates of the disease than smaller ones , the new, detailed work has found. Herds with more than 100 cattle had rates of six per thousand, while herds with less than 50 cows had rates of between one and four per thousand. The researchers said they could not explain why larger herds should be at greater risk. It could be because of a small amount of transmission of the disease from cow to cow, or an effect of more intensive farming.
The research was by the team that last year said that new cases would fall dramatically, to 12 a year by 1999. Since then, they have returned to their data for more detailed analysis. As a result, they uncovered the clustering. "A small number of herds are accounting for a relatively large number of cases," said Dr Christl Donnelly, one of the team at Oxford University.
The work is published today in Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society. The scientists showed that BSE has clustered regionally , with incidence at its highest in the South West and East Anglia; second highest in the South East and the North West; and lowest in Scotland. Their model shows that it is possible that some BSE is transmitted horizontally, for example through infected pasture or directly from cow to cow.
But this transmission is so small that it could not sustain an epidemic. Horizontal transmission could, however, account for the rate of BSE being higher in large herds than small ones. The team, led by Prof Roy Anderson, has tested its computer models against reality for the first time, because its first predictions were for last year. These calculations were accurate, Dr Donnelly said. The number of new cases this year would be half that of last year, the scientists have said.
29 Jul 97 - Sims sells red meat firm for £31m loss
By Andrew Edgecliffe-Johnson
Telegraph ... uesday 29 July 1997
Sims Food Group is hoping to put the BSE crisis behind it with the £12.1m sale of its retail red meat business yesterday.
Although a management buyout team was formed by a Sims director, David Gunner, the company has instead sold the division to Dawn, a privately-owned Irish group.
The sale comes after Sims's earlier disposals of its meat exporting company, First City Trading, and its loss-making catering and refrigeration operations. Sims announced a £31.1m loss on yesterday's sale, so it has now lost £60m on disposals over two years.
The losses have plunged its profit and loss account into a £10.8m deficit, preventing it from paying dividends. The company intends to ask shareholders for permission to write off the deficit by reducing its share premium account, which forms part of its reserves.
Sims, whose shares have dropped from 225p in 1993 to 33.5p yesterday, passed its final dividend payment yesterday. But the company's finance director, Tony Cearns, said that if shareholders back its plans, "we will be in a position to pay dividends again".
The chief executive, Stephen Collier, said Sims sold its retail business because "traditional red meat consumption was in long-term decline , the large retail multiples dominated sales to the consumer and there was serious over-capacity on the supply side".
After the sale, Sims will be left with the fast food business Oakland and the poultry company Lincs Turkey. The on-going business made £2.2m operating profit on sales of £40.9m last year, and Sims said it intends to grow it by acquisitions in the longer term.
Mr Collier, announcing the group's full-year results, said the pre-tax loss reduced from £49.3m to £27.5m. The reduction was partly due to improving burger sales and government aid grants during the BSE crisis, although Mr Collier would not quantify how much assistance Sims received.
25 Jul 97 - Times Letters
Letters to the Editor - Evidence on BSE
The Times ... July 25 1997