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Bega Cheese: Supermarket favourite takes $230m dive

Investors have binned Vegemite owner Bega Cheese after the company flagged that the pandemic had taken a hefty bite out of its profits.

Shares in the Aussie supermarket favourite tumbled more than 13 per cent on Thursday – making it the worst performing stock on the ASX 200 – after it flagged Covid lockdowns and supply chain bottlenecks had hurt its performance.

Bega’s fall to $4.84 wiped more than $230m – or 24 million blocks of Tasty Cheddar – from the company’s value in just a couple of hours.

On top of Covid aftershocks, the dairy, spreads and drinks giant said strong competition for milk had forced it to pay higher farmgate prices, while the restructuring of the Chinese infant and toddler food market had also proven a disruption.

“The company has been very focused on managing the cumulative effect of the direct and indirect costs associated with Covid-19,” Bega told investors in a release.

“Some of the impacts will be offset by improved market returns and the cessation of a number of one-off costs; however, the timing of both price increases and the removal of Covid-19-related costs will affect business performance in FY2022.”

Bega said it now expected its normalised earnings to come in at between $195m to $215m for the 2022 financial year.

While this could ultimately be a 51 per cent lift on the $142m reported in 2021, the new figure falls short of what analysts were expecting.

Bega also said it expected upward pressure on farm gate milk prices to remain for the balance of the year, reflecting high global dairy commodity prices and limited supply.

Bega has shed a quarter of its value since reaching a multi-year share price high in March thanks to the closure of international borders.

The share price decline comes even as the company’s scale and profits swell thanks to the acquisition of Lion Dairy and Drinks in November 2020.

The pandemic has also proven hugely disruptive for ASX-listed dairy and infant formula companies.

Bubs, a2 Milk, Synlait, and Fonterra are all on track to finish the year lower than where they started.

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