Committee Reports::Report No. 13 - Comhlucht SiÚicre Éireann, Teoranta::04 June, 1980::MIONTUAIRISC NA FINNEACHTA / Minutes of Evidence


(Minutes of Evidence)

Dé Céadaoin, 4 Meitheamh, 1980

Wednesday, 4 June, 1980

Members Present:

SENATOR EOIN RYAN in the chair


Austin Deasy,


Patrick Cooney,

Michael Herbert,

Brian Hillery,

William Kenneally,

Justin Keating.

Liam Lawlor.




Mr. Maurice C. Sheehy, Managing Director and Chief Executive, Mr. Christopher K. Comerford, Group General Manager and Deputy Chief Executive; Mr. John D. McCarthy, Group Financial Controller; Mr. John F. Hughes, Company Secretary and Mr. Tony Brown, Economic Adviser, of Comhlucht Siúicre Éireann Teoranta called and further examined.

285. Chairman.—As you know, we are confining our questions this evening to profitability, capital structure, financial management and control. Do the company accept that their profit margins on sales even before charging bank interest were very low for an enterprise of the kind they are operating?

Mr. Sheehy,—As regards profit before interest and taxes, percentage of capital employed, I would not accept that that was low compared with many Irish companies of the same size or compared with other industries in the food business. When you take profit after interest it is an entirely different matter. We have ratios that we can produce for you showing what the position is compared with other companies in the same industry. It is not acceptable, of course, because we are a company who have made profit in all but three years out of the 43 or 44 years that we are reporting and still we have financial problems. If we were making adequate profits we would not be in that position.

286. Senator Cooney.—Is your return capital-wise not inadequate?

Mr. Sheehy.—Not by commercial standards. Our return on capital employed in the years up to the last reporting year, when you take it as a percentage of capital employed, the profit before interest and taxes is quite O.K. but when you take the net profit it is an entirely different matter. I could quote major Irish companies in the top bracket, and if you compare them on that basis—before interest and tax as a percentage of the capital employed—our figure would be quite respectable. It would compare, too, perhaps with other sugar companies in the United Kingdom but it is quite a different matter when you look at it after interest because of the low equity base. The gearing is so wrong in our case that the picture is entirely distorted.

287. Senator Cooney.—Before charging interest are you happy with the return?

Mr. Sheehy.—Not this year.

288. Senator Cooney.—On average?

Mr. Sheehy.—In the past, yes.

289. Senator Cooney.—Would one reason for that be the fact that your return is being calculated on the historic cost basis and your premises have not been revalued?

Mr. Sheehy.—Yes, that applies to very many companies that are reporting on an historic cost basis. We do, however, within the company have figures that are not published, of course, because there was no necessity heretofore to publish them, where the assets of the company are revalued on a current value basis. We have those kind of figures which are quite different again to replacement value.

290. Senator Cooney.—Could we see those figures?

Mr. Sheehy.—It would be quite significant because current value of the assets as determined in that way would be more than double the asset value of the company as reported in the traditional fashion and of course would be totally out of line with the replacement value because, whereas we have about £44 million or £45 million assets in the balance sheet, on current value you could more than double that figure, and you could more than double that figure again, maybe treble that figure, if you want to come to replacement value.

Senator Cooney.—We will not go that far.

Mr. Sheehy.—It does mean that if we want to replace the assets in the industry at the moment we would be talking of a figure of £250 million probably. We can make available to the committee an independent report that we got on the current asset value which was done four or five years ago and which we have updated each year.*

291. Chairman.—If the company make the investment which they told us they would like to make over the next few years, are you confident that they would be able to earn sufficient profit to service that additional capital?

Mr. Sheehy.—The current year is a bad year. The effects of inflation are eating into the profitability of the company. Within the EEC system there is permitted a certain percentage rise in the price of a basic commodity, sugar, which is probably only a third of what inflation is going to be. This is going to have an impact on our costs and our profit. We do not see a change in the immediate future but we do see a situation where without the investment the position is going to get considerably worse and where we are going to be in a much worse position. The efficiency of the factories would fall, relative to other sugar industries. It is out of line as it is, but it will become even more so and likewise we feel that without the investment a lot of which will go in facilities for farmers for the reception of beet, more in relation to the environment and so on, we will be in trouble from those sides as well. The Board feel and the management staff of the company also feel that the investment is absolutely essential for the future of the industry.

292. Chairman.—So it is an investment not necessarily to expand your operations or to make additional profit; it is an investment which is necessary to survive. Is that so?

Mr. Sheehy.—That is right. Some of it is necessary to replace equipment that is obsolete and dangerous; more of it is necessary to increase efficiency in areas where we are very much out of line and more of it is necessary for service to growers and customers and——

293. Senator Cooney.—Is there a difference of profitability between your divisions?

Mr. Sheehy.—Yes.

294. Senator Cooney.—Could you give some indication of how they rate towards each other?

Mr. Sheehy.—We have a system in which we break down all our business. We have a budget forecast, the equivalent of a balancing forecast, for every month for every year in advance, for all our businesses and budgeted profit levels for all of them. I think the best way would probably be to submit our total budget and performance on a monthly basis for the past. The sugar end of the business has been profitable; our other agricultural lines have been profitable and the food end has not been profitable.

Chairman.—We may have to ask you to give some further figures on that.*

295. Deputy Kenneally.—What is the group overhead charge? What has gone into it?

Mr. Sheehy.—In our control accounts all overheads are budgeted for every month, 12 months in advance. Performance against those is measured on a monthly basis. We can let you have details as to how that is done for each division, what we attribute directly to each business and how we apportion the head office.*

296. Chairman.—With regard to the dividend paid to your shareholders which is very low, has the Minister ever complained of the amount of dividend that you have paid? Have there been discussions about raising the dividend?

Mr. Sheehy.—Yes, it has happened on a number of occasions. It happened possibly at annual meetings and there have been discussions between ourselves and the Department on it fairly regularly in the past. We felt that the profitability has been too low over the years, even when we were making what the public perceived at times as significant profits because we never knew what would come in the future. We never could see ourselves making great profits. We had this requirement of satisfying interest. There was never very much left to pay in dividend because we felt the equity base was far too low. When we demonstrate the figures with regard to profit before interest and taxes, percentage of capital employed relative to other companies, that will be very plain. We have seen that position for several years. It is not a new problem. It is getting worse with increasing costs and inflation. There is a necessity now for a major capital investment.

297. Senator Hillery.—Over the past three years, what form of short and medium-term planning and control systems has the company operated?

Mr. Sheehy.—With regard to the short term, every year there is a budget prepared for every single activity, every single overhead and so on. It is broken down in great detail. It is not done on a yearly basis alone. It is forecast for every month of the year. I do not think many companies in the private sector would be preparing a balance sheet every month. We forecast the balance sheet, we forecast cash flows for each month in the year a year in advance. Naturally, there are variances because it is broken up under a big number of headings. That is a system of control and planning. Each operation has its own medium and long-term plans. We have published overall documents a number of times in the past, about three times in the past five years. We have long term plans as well. We have immediate short term divisions, plans for a bit longer and projected long-terms periodically. We are, in line with the type of structural reorganisation that we feel is necessary, updating that system as well. This was taken into account when we brought in outside help 12 months ago. It is now coming to fruition in the whole structure because we have a group which grew up from one product company with a lot of other things attached and we see that the time has come for having closer identification of the different businesses.

298. Chairman.—Are the overheads, head office costs and interest on capital charged to the divisions on a fully proportionate basis or is there any kind of cross-subsidisation?

Mr. Sheehy.—The document on the budgets will show you the total. It is allocated in accordance with a fairly rational approach to it. For instance, working capital like every other business is brought in 12 months in advance.

299. Chairman.—You try to allocate them on a proportionate basis? You do not deliberately subsidise one with another?

Mr. Sheehy.—No. When we come to the annual reporting, that is done on a group basis and it is a different thing from the control procedure.

300. Chairman.—Over the years you have had profit targets for each division. Have these, taking one year with another, been reached or have they been consistently below your targets?

Mr. Sheehy.—Our control budgets set achievable but high targets. Taking one with another they will be more often slightly under rather than slightly over. A few would have been substantially over at times. They are not consistently over or under. We try to set fairly tight budgetary targets which may be difficult to achieve. There would be a bit of a strain to reach them rather than a looseness in the budget.

301. Chairman.—You try to have realistic targets all the time?

Mr. Sheehy.—Yes.

302. Senator Cooney.—You had a consultancy study done with regard to general management structures?

Mr. Sheehy.—Yes.

303. Senator Cooney.—Do you consider that any existing weaknesses have contributed to your present position?

Mr. Sheehy.—We formed the opinion a year ago for the need to have this whole thing reviewed because we had a single product company and had added on a number of other businesses. We had formed the view that the time had come to see the degree to which these could be made free standing. We have gone to a lot of trouble in the way we approached this. We had interviews by outsiders. We had over 120 people in the management structure interviewed and we have got a feed-back from that. The Board are now considering the report. We have reached some views on it but we have not explored it all the way through the union structures. I know what we are aiming to do but it will take a few months before we explore it all through the union structure and see what will emerge in that regard.

304. Senator Cooney.—Assuming the Board’s discussions are satisfactory and all the recommendations are accepted by all the interests concerned, would the end result be a very radical change in the structures?

Mr. Sheehy.—There would certainly be more decentralisation.

305. Senator Cooney.—Would that be the kernel of it?

Mr. Sheehy.—Yes.

306. Senator Cooney.—Could you deal with the relationship between the company and the Department? We were told here the last day that the Board is perfectly happy, that there is a good relationship and that the comment in the recent NESC Report would not be altogether applicable to the Sugar Company.

Mr. Sheehy.—There certainly is no friction. There might be different points of view at different times, but that is in the nature of things because of the different roles people play. Any suggestion that there is lack of cooperation or lack of willingness to understand our problems is not correct.

307. Senator Cooney.—Is there any question of stifling initiative?

Mr. Sheehy.—I do not feel that that is correct. There has been a lot of pressure from outside to which I think the company might have to react, anyway, apart from the Department. We do not get any undue interference. We keep the two Departments mainly involved very well informed on a fairly regular basis even in advance of things being agreed by the Board. I have dialogue with the officials in the Department of Finance and the Department of Agriculture.

308. Senator Cooney.—And the Department of Agriculture?

Mr. Sheehy.—Yes. The Department of Agriculture are our main reporting Department.

309. Senator Cooney.—Are the Board formally under Agriculture?

Mr. Sheehy.—Yes.

310. Senator Cooney.—Is this their first year?

Mr. Sheehy.—Yes.

311. Senator Cooney.—Are they still dealing with Finance?

Mr. Sheehy.—Yes. Finance still hold the shares and are concerned with annual meetings and so on.

312. Senator Cooney.—Do I understand that up to now the Board have been under the aegis of the Department of Finance but in various consultations they have been involved with both Finance and Agriculture?

Mr. Sheehy.—That is right.

313. Senator Cooney.—Are they now formally under Agriculture but will continue to deal with both Departments?

Mr. Sheehy.—That is correct.

314. Senator Cooney.—Has it been those two Departments that they have been involved with all along?

Mr. Sheehy.—The Department of Industry and Commerce have had a certain input but not to the same extent in my time as the other two Departments.

315. Senator Cooney.—Do the Board meet them together or separately?

Mr. Sheehy.—Frequently we meet them together. We met the two Departments together last week, and that was in advance of certain dialogue that would be going on at the Board. The Board would not have reached a decision on certain things but we try to get a feel of how the Departments would view things. In my experience in that kind of dialogue I have never found difficulty in dealing with the civil service.

316. Senator Cooney.—Do I take it that the Board had full dialogue with them over their investment plan?

Mr. Sheehy.—Yes, we had. That took quite a while but there was a very extensive dialogue with Finance and Agriculture on that programme.

317. Senator Cooney.—Were the Board satisfied at the length of time it took, bearing in mind the urgency of the need for investment?

Mr. Sheehy.—It was, because while dialogue was going on we were still able to proceed with the work in the first year. There was no hold up. Whereas the dialogue did go on for quite a while and it was quite a while before we had the loans arranged accordingly, the work was permitted to move ahead while that was being done. The outcome of that was helpful rather than the reverse. They did not come and say, “Do this, do that”. The came with suggestions about how they felt that things might be improved. It was collaboration rather than direction.

318. Chairman.—Are we talking about the investment that took place?

Mr. Sheehy.—Yes, this dialogue about the future is going on in the same way.

319. Chairman.—Has that not been approved yet?

Mr. Sheehy.—On a year to year basis. For what we are doing this year we have got the nod.

320. Senator Cooney.—I take it too, that in this dialogue you are constantly referring to your unusual debt/equity ratio? What was the reaction to it?

Mr. Sheehy.—That is a big problem. We have a view that a reasonable debt/equity ratio should be established. We have made a suggestion to the Department that there should be a joint approach of maybe three of the Departments and ourselves in establishing what that should be for the future in our kind of industry and agreeing our long-term projections for the various businesses. Already we would have given the Department some of our forecasts in all of those areas.

321. Senator Cooney.—The Company’s debt/equity ratio is so wrong that it is a matter of prime and urgent importance.

Mr. Sheehy.—We believe that it should be rectified, that an injection of capital is urgently needed and the earlier that could be arranged the better. As we would see it, a ratio for an operation like that should be 0.75:1 and the injection should be made accordingly or phased in some way.

322. Chairman.—In regard to the Company’s depreciation policy, and in the light of what you told us about the necessity of having more sophisticated plant not merely to expand but to survive, the depreciation charge, which for instance in the 1979 account, was £2.1 million, seems to be unduly low.

Mr. Sheehy.—Yes. The historical practice is that we have been depreciating land and buildings at 2½ per cent and plant at 10 per cent of declining value. That is on an historical view. If we applied even the same principles to current costs, we would be doubling the depreciation charge at current costs and if you were to go on replacement cost it would make it bigger still. We have been doing that internally. Since we did this revaluation about four years ago, we have available what the profitability of the group would be if the depreciation was applied to the current cost of the plant updated each year by the addition.

323. Chairman.—Will the equipment that the Board are proposing to install still be depreciating on the basis of 12 to 15 years? Is that a realistic time for the equipment that they are proposing to install?

Mr. Sheehy.—I think it is. A lot of the equipment going in now would be superior in quality of materials to what would have gone in in the past. For example, there would be much more stainless steel involved in present-day equipment than there was in older times. We feel 10 per cent is appropriate for that. The 2½ per cent on land and buildings is also appropriate.

324. Senator Keating.—This is a rather general question. Mr. Sheehy has made the point that this was originally a one-product company in course of diversification. It is so general that I find it hard to formulate it. Perhaps it would be interesting to hear what you say in reply. When you decide on some major capital investment—some major spending—you can either put that into existing things or you can put it into a new thing. That is the first choice. Secondly, within existing divisions you have to rank the urgency of the different investments. How do you go about making major capital decisions? How do you evaluate them? When your internal evaluation mechanism is finished with, how does it go to the Board for final decision? I am really asking you a very general question about strategic planning.

Mr. Sheehy.—Proposals would normally be made down at the plant, whether it was in the nature of a business or one of our other activities. When these proposals are being drafted, the plant in question has to categorise. It might be a matter of safety or something like that, and other considerations would be put aside, or whether it might be seen as essential for the survival of the business. They would also have to do the calculations. The ratios would be established. These are coming through constantly over the year and are being updated, looking perhaps two or three years ahead. They come then to the financial department in head office and are brought to the management committee in head office, and discussed there and further categorised between the requirements of the different businesses, the DCF and the pay back. A choice has to be made because there is always demand for a lot more than we are able to allocate. A decision has to be made at head office level on certain things—something about the environment, for instance, or safety, or essential replacements such as in the major job we are doing in Mallow this year, which is essential but would be very difficult to justify in purely financial terms. You would be left every year with quite a substantial number that are ranked on just return alone. On a DCF basis, we would be looking for a certain margin above the cost of money. You can get caught often in this, especially when interest rates shoot up beyond what you would have thought was a reasonable margin. This is done in a formal way. There are forms for doing it. It comes up to the management first and then, when it goes to the Board, it goes in a summary form. It is available to the Board with back-up sheets for everything, from how the decision was arrived at, right down to the person who initiated it.

325. Senator Keating.—I am not an accountant and I know very little about accountancy, but it seems to me that with DCF you can play tunes on it depending on what actual numbers you put in. You talk about pay back time. I do not mean this in a hard sense, but would you like to give some actual numbers on pay back and the rate of return?

Mr. Sheehy.—We have used a figure of 10 per cent above the cost of money in DCF. If you were taking the present, you would be talking about figures that are not achievable because you would be talking about nearly 30 per cent. What pay back would that be?

Mr. McCarthy.—Pay back seems to be anything less than five years.

326. Senator Keating.—Can I make a slight comment to indicate the line of my thought without saying too much? That seems to me to some extent what I would think of as a slightly passive way of generating major investment decisions, in the sense that, if it starts at plant level, it starts to an extent on the basis of what exists and on the preoccupations of the individuals at that level. Everybody sees his own thing and wants it to prosper. Is there a place—and perhaps it happens—for what one might call a strategic planning unit that says: “Area X is interesting and complementary to what we do, even if we have no presence there at all”? If area X exists and is complementary, you will not have suggestions coming from plant level in the sense they will not see the whole terrain the way senior management will.

Mr. Sheehy.—Certain guidelines are given to each plant. Targets to be achieved in a certain time, targets regarding capacity and efficiency are set out for each plant. That does not cover the point you make that there might be other areas of investment we should be involved in that might give even more returns. It comes back to the role the company are expected to play in development generally. We have been trying to seek out new ventures. There is active consideration. The attitude of the Board would be that, in those cases, they would be looking for sizeable returns above the cost of money. In the case of our existing businesses they would accept much lower figures.

327. Senator Keating.—I was making the distinction and using the words “strategic” and “practical”. What comes out of the individual plant is a practical thing and what comes out of an overview or long-term planning is a strategic thing. Is there any limitation on the strategic planning? Would you like clearer legislation? Would you like a clearer definition from legislators as to what your role was? Would you like a more precise demarcation of the economic aspects or the social aspects of what you have to do? These are both very real for the company?

Mr. Sheehy.—We think this is essential at this time in the life of our company as part of this whole exercise in reorganisation. We have also submitted to the Department a document on objectives. Agreement and understanding must be arrived at in the future on the role that we, as a State company, should be playing, especially, in our social context. That should be taken into account in judging our performance.

328. Senator Hillery.—Your capital expenditure over the past three years has been £20 million. Would you care to comment on the return in terms of profits, productivity and output in relation to that investment?

Mr. Sheehy.—The returns are not as great as we would like. The sugar industry was deprived of capital for too long and there is such a big backlog of work needing to be done in order to preserve it that we did not have any alternative but to go ahead and make this investment. Much of the initial investment was in the totally necessary categories that resulted in bigger returns. Nevertheless we have a review this year of the results we get from the capital that we have invested and there have been quite substantial improvements in performance. The profitability has not shown it but we have to compare it to what the situation would have been if we had not gone ahead. It would have been very bad. We can produce figures on the impact that each individual investment has made on, say, man-minutes per tonne of beet worked, on fuel or steam per tonne of beet or per tonne of sugar or extractability and so on. It is not as big as one would like in financial terms but when one compares it to what the result would have been without it there is no doubt about the justification for it.

329. Senator Hillery.—What is your expectation for growth in sugar sales in the immediate future?

Mr. Sheehy.—We do not see any growth of consequence in sugar sales here in the immediate future. The position will stay about static. In some sectors there is evidence of a slight decline.

330. Senator Hillery.—Where, then, does the proposed investment of £30 million fit into your future plans?

Mr. Sheehy.—The proposed investment is aimed at keeping us up to date and efficient in some way in the sugar business. I mentioned a figure of £250 million for replacement of our assets; there has been no significant investment over the years, and it is 50 years there. The type of money we are putting in is very small in relation to what has to be done. Those who have visited the factories will have seen that we are very far from what one would like to have in the type of food industry in which we are involved.

331. Chairman.—The new equipment which you are planning will not produce more sugar. It will produce it more efficiently. Is that right?

Mr. Sheehy.—The same amount of sugar will be produced more efficiently and in a somewhat shorter time. We feel that the reasonable period for a campaign is about 100 days. That is the target that we have and we are substantially above that.

332. Senator Hillery.—Will that have any implications for manning levels?

Mr. Sheehy.—Yes. This is a problem that has to be faced. If we put the sugar business more and more in line with what it should be, we do interfere with employment. We see it as our responsibility to provide extra employment opportunities for people to take up that slack.

Senator Hillery.—I have only today joined this Committee and, I would like to pay a compliment to the Sugar Company on the excellent industrial relations record they have had over the years. It is a model in the public sector.

333. Chairman.—Let me ask about your stocks. Stocks at the end of September 1979 were £29.3 million. This is three-and-a-half months sales. It seems to be abnormally high.

Mr. Sheehy.—First of all, in the sugar business, there is an EEC regulation regarding stocks. One cannot, for any one day in the year, go below 10 per cent. One has to have a working margin above that so that as we go into one processing season we have to have a minimum of 10 per cent.

334. Chairman.—Ten per cent of the annual requirement?

Mr. Sheehy.—Ten per cent of our annual production. That is one thing that tends to cause problems and the penalty for that is quite substantial. For every tonne that we fall even for one day, there is a penalty of about £80 so that we have to aim at keeping it above the 10 per cent. One can get a rush at certain times; one cannot just come down accurately to the 10 per cent. Likewise, at the food end, coming up to the winter months, whether it is in relation to soup or vegetables, one has a high stock period there. So there is a minimum on the sugar and the food stock. One has laid in at that time stocks of fuel oil and materials for the beet campaign as well. The end of September is the start of the beet season.

335. Chairman.—Perhaps you would be able to give us a breakdown of what these stocks consisted of. They were not all sugar.

Mr. Sheehy.—They were food and the processing materials and general stores and so on. Until this regulation of the 10 per cent came in on the sugar, we would have run the sugar stocks much lower.

336. Chairman.—In relation to your credit policy, the debtors figures suggest that you give about two months credit. Is that correct?

Mr. Sheehy.—We have standard credit terms for each operation. I can show you what the targets are and what we achieve. We have a debtor age analysis each month for the different operations. Our terms for the sugar business are very tight. It is 30 days in other areas of the business. But when one comes to, say, farmers where it is credit against the crop, it might be six months. There is a system for dealing with that. If they get fertilisers, feed and ground limestone in the spring time, we would not get paid for that until the crop is delivered in the autumn.

Chairman.—Perhaps you could give us a note on that also because we have only one round figure here which really does not give us a picture of what your credit terms are.*

337. Senator Hillery.—You have referred several times to the very limited share capital in the company. Have you actually sought additional share capital from the Minister in recent years?

Mr. Sheehy.—We have had a lot of dialogue with the Department, as distinct from the Minister, on it and I have made a suggestion that a working party be put together to form a policy on this. We would see a need for this injection and for the people in the Department to know my views on it. We would see a need for an injection of about £25 million and then some further increments for some years hence while we would be engaged in this very big capital programme.

338. Senator Hillery.—What is the present status of that dialogue? Are there indications that the necessary additional share capital will be forthcoming?

Mr. Sheehy.—It is being looked at at the moment. At the same time we are looking at these objectives. We have had this outside study on objectives done and we have submitted that report to the Department. We have also submitted various reports on the present status. We have submitted, too, our proposals in regard to our longer term plan and forecast profitability and so on. We could not expect any response until such time as all the data has been teased out.

339. Chairman.—Have you considered other means of financing your equipment such as leasing it or that kind of special arrangement?

Mr. Sheehy.—Yes. We have about £2 million worth of equipment on lease.

340. Deputy Herbert.—Have you explored the possibility of seeking assistance from producers to help you in respect of your financing problems?

Mr. Sheehy.—We have had informal discussions in that connection. Again the assets of this company are owned by the State and it would not really be for the company to hand over control of any section of the assets to some one group without the State’s consent. We would regard that as part of this overall kind of proposition. Some farming elements, if you take press reports, have expressed interest in this regard.

341. Deputy Herbert.—Were not certain dairy co-ops when they were in financial difficulties helped by the producers.

Mr. Sheehy.—Yes, but as some of our operations have a large social content it may well be that if we had other groupings involved in this way, they would want to be involved in the one but not the other.

342. Chairman.—Could I get back to the question of leasing? Do you own your head office?

Mr. Sheehy.—We do.

343. Chairman.—Have you considered a sale and lease back arrangement?

Mr. Sheehy.—This has been put to us. Roughly half the head office building is rented to Central Statistics on an agreed rental basis. I do not see that it would be of much benefit to us to sell this and rent it back because of the fact that a Government Department is there. We get some money for it but what we would pay out in rent would be nearly as much.

344. Chairman.—Have you done a study on it?

Mr. Sheehy.—Yes.

345. Chairman.—You see trading margins being low in 1980, but do you foresee any improvement in 1981?

Mr. Sheehy.—In regard to sugar and in the light of indications from Brussels I cannot foresee any improvement on the way. In food products there is again this problem of the lack of protection within the EEC, and on the engineering products end, the market in respect of the specialised line we are in is very depressed in the UK. This is because of the uncertainty that hangs over the sugar business in the UK. I do not see next year as being any easier.

346. Chairman.—Was the agreement in Brussels this week helpful so far as you are concerned?

Mr. Sheehy.—It was, but it still will not be anywhere near what is required. Because of the way in which costs have increased here, the 5 per cent would not be adequate at all.

347. Chairman.—In the light of that and with nearly half the year gone, can you give an estimate of what you think your result will be for 1980?

Mr. Sheehy.—Yes. I would like to submit to you details of our present position.

348. Chairman.—We may expect a note on that?

Mr. Sheehy.—Yes.*

The witnesses withdrew.

*Documentation supplied in confidence to the Committee.

*Documentation supplied in confidence to the Committee.

*See Appendix 5.

*Note supplied, in confidence, to Committee.