Tate & Lyle’s adjusted profit before taxation was down 19% to £120m in the six months to 30 September, despite a modest 1% increase in sales, to £1.7bn.

The effect of exceptional costs of £36m, however, dragged pre-tax profits down to £84m, 42% less than the £145m achieved in the same period of 2006. Operating profits were 15% lower at £142m.

The company described it as a "challenging" six months with difficult conditions in international sugar trading. This saw profits for the sugar business slashed 56% to £14m.

The company said it remained positive for the future of its European sugar operation once the EU Sugar Regime reforms are fully implemented in 2010. It then expects consolidation within the industry and said it is taking steps to be suitably structured to benefit from the opportunities that lie ahead.

These will include annual cost reductions of £7m by the end of this financial year and increased throughput at its two cane sugar refineries in the UK and Portugal.

The 2008 financial year was already proving to be more challenging than expected with continuing difficulties arising in international sugar trading and from the weak US dollar.