Sept. 25--Debt-ridden Premier Foods wrong-footed investors when it said it was parting company with its chief financial officer at the end of the month.
The business, which makes Hovis bread and Mr Kipling cakes, said Mark Moran would leave to be replaced by Alastair Murray from September 30.
Shares in the firm plunged as much as 8pc in early trading as investors took in the news before recovering to end 4.25p down at 143.25p.
Moran joined the business in 2011, and helped steer it through a major financing early last year. The company said it asked him to 'commit to at least the next three years to continue this transition'. But the firm added 'he ultimately felt unable' to pledge his future to the business.
Investec analyst Martin Deboo said the move 'surprised the market', as Moran was a capable finance officer.
This move comes on top of the firm's new chief executive Gavin Darby, who replaced Michael Clarke in January. Clarke had only spent 18 months at the top of the food company.
Premier Foods is labouring under pounds sterling 890m of debt and a pensions black hole of just over pounds sterling 300m. The ray of light for investors is that Murray is also well regarded.
Murray was previously the chief financial officer at cheese-to-butter group Dairy Crest (down 2.3p at 471.8p).
Analysts at Panmure Gordon said Murray 'is a highly capable CFO and has relevant experience with highly geared companies with pension fund issues and as such he should be seen as a safe pair of hands'.
Murray will have much to deal with right away. Analysts expect the business to launch a rights issue of around pounds sterling 120m as well as selling a bond of around pounds sterling 400m before the end of the year, to further ease the firm's debt burden. In recent years the firm has sold off brands like Branston pickle and Sarson's vinegar to cut debt. It has also axed more than 900 jobs and closed bakeries.
However, Darby said he has no plans for further sell-offs. Instead he will focus on growing the firm's biggest brands such as Bisto, Oxo and Ambrosia.
He also wants to simplify the business. The group has 1,700 product lines and 3,300 suppliers, despite being a UK-focused business. Darby wants slash its suppliers by half, and cut around a quarter of its product lines.
The FTSE 100 was flat with shares rising just 14.09 points to 6571.46 as traders puzzled over when the US Federal Reserve would begin cutting back on its monthly pounds sterling 53bn quantitative easing programme. In New York the Dow Jones Industrial Average fell 66.79 points to 15,334.59 as investors tried to work out whether the Fed would begin tapering as early as next month.
Back in London the gold price remained flat at $1,316 an ounce, as the precious metal is seen as a hedge against inflation. Goldminers Randgold Resources fell 128p to 4,493p, while Fresnillo slipped 42p to 971p.
Citigroup analysts said sales of British drug firm GlaxoSmithKline have fallen 30pc in China since it was accused of bribery by state authorities earlier this summer, which the broker says could end up costing the firm over pounds sterling 300m.
But Panmure Gordon said that while the stock has fallen 12pc since its peak in May, this is due to failures in its drug pipeline, not just China. Panmure said GSK is at an 'excellent entry level' and rates the stock a 'buy.' GSK lifted 13.5p at 1,603p.
Shares in Diageo, the maker of Guinness and Johnnie Walker whisky, slipped 31p to 2,019.5p. But new chief executive Ivan Menezes sold 93,544 shares at 2,033p making pounds sterling 1.9m. And Diageo chief financial officer Deirdre Mahlan sold 80,502 at 2,062p netting pounds sterling 1.7m. Pharmaceuticals group Shire lost 31p to 2,489p as traders were bleak about its chances of buying US rival ViroPharma.
A surge in share trading and advisory fees has bolstered merchant bank Close Brothers and broker Panmure Gordon.
Panmure Gordon, down 1.5p to 138.5p, swung back into profit with income rising 44pc to pounds sterling 9.5m in the first half of the year.
While Close Brothers, up 56p to 1,189p, saw pre-tax profits rise 21pc to pounds sterling 163.1m for the year to July 31, also helped by the restructure of its asset management arm.
Analysts at Oriel Securities expect good things when clothing retailer N Brown posts its half-year results next month. Oriel said like-for-like sales at the fashion group rose 7-8pc in the first three months of the year, and expects six month pre-tax profit to hit pounds sterling 44m.
N Brown, which owns online lingerie business Figleaves and larger-size specialist Simply Be, was up 7.5p to 529p.
DDD, a 3D technology firm, said shipments of personal computers have crashed by 76pc in the last six months. The AIM-listed company, which counts Samsung and Intel among its clients, said the move led its half-year results to swing from a pounds sterling 414,542 profit a year ago to a pounds sterling 687,7921 loss. DDD chief executive Chris Yewdall called the results 'disappointing' but added that he expected increasing shipments of tablets and TVs to eventually replace falling PC sales. Shares fell 1.62p to 6.88p.