Premier Foods is one of the lowest-rated financially healthy retail companies in the UK, according to newly compiled research from Company Watch.

The owner of the Hovis and Mr Kipling brands came in with a H-Score of 14 out of 100, which is judged on aspects such as a business’ balance sheets and the prevalence of intangible assets. Premier Foods has also been in Company Watch’s Warning Area consistently for the past five years, with a health rating score of 25 or below.

The analysis is based on each company’s last five years’ published accounts, as processed through the Company Watch H-Score risk assessment model. 

The average H-Score across the whole retail manufacturers sample was 52 out of a maximum 100.   

Nick Hood, head of external affairs at Company Watch, said: “Our survey highlights the problems facing retail suppliers. They, like the retailers themselves, are suffering a knock-on effect from a fall in consumer confidence and reduced disposable incomes of shoppers. At a time when like-for-like sales are falling and consumers are demanding evermore value for money through deep discounts, retailers are inevitably making most suppliers share the pain.

“The accounts we examined are mainly for periods ending during the latter part of 2010 and early 2011, which means that these figures do not yet reflect fully the upward pressure on manufacturers’ costs from rising energy and commodity prices. Once these feed through, we can expect the financial health of the sector to deteriorate further, with more manufacturing companies falling into our Warning Area and becoming vulnerable to insolvency or restructuring.” 

In total, 173 companies (25%) out of 681 of the UK’s largest food, non-alcoholic beverage and clothing manufacturers, were currently in its Warning Area, with health ratings of 25 or below out of 100.  

Dairy Crest, producer of Cathedral City cheese, Utterly Butterly and Clover spreads, fell into the Warning Area category after its March 2011 results with an H-Score of 20 and was pushed deeper when its interim figures to September 2011 produced a lower H–Score of 16.

Drinks manufacturer Britvic, owner of the Robinsons, Tango and 7Up brands, also appeared in the Warning Area with a current H-Score of just 17 out of 100 – a financial rating partially driven by the high level of intangible assets, which are almost 15 times the company’s net worth.

Statistics on all UK companies for the past 14 years show that one in four companies in this ‘red danger zone’ have either gone on to file for insolvency or have undergone a major financial restructuring.