The troubled UK cider group, HP Bulmer Holdings, has reported a loss before tax and exceptionals of £1.8m for the 26 weeks to 25 October, compared with a £6.4m profit in the corresponding period last year. Sales rose marginally from £286.0m to £288.6m.

The company, which has taken a £31.2m exceptional charge, most of which is in respect of its activities in South Africa and the US, said its trading environment remained challenging and added that its international business was performing poorly.

"We believe the slowdown will continue into the New Year, in line with trends identified by other participants in the On Trade market," said the company's acting chief executive, Colin Brown, adding that that while Take Home Trade volumes were increasing, margins were still being squeezed.

Bulmer also announced that a plan to turn the company around had been presented to the board earlier this month which was aimed at improving business performance in three key areas: net sales price management, cost of goods sold reduction and fixed cost reduction.