The struggling cider maker HP Bulmer today announced a massive £19.2m blow to profit expectations for the year to April 2003, and the appointment to the company's board of John Darlington, a turnaround expert.

The company's shares immediately plunged almost 50% in early-morning trading to 106.5p, less than a quarter of their 52-week high of 426p.

Bulmer added that the latest developments meant it was in breach of its banking and loan note covenants and was "pursuing negotiations" with its bankers and lenders.

The company outlined five factors that would affect this year's profits:

o A decision to reduce the stock in the trade channels in the UK and internationally to "more appropriate levels", which would cost it £4.1m

o A disappointing performance by new products in the UK and internationally, which would hit profit expectations by £2m

o Revised expectations for UK profitability, down £4.6m

o Continuing poor international results, hitting profits by another £1.8m

o Increases in pension costs of £2m

o A write-off of investment in new product development, costing £4.7m

The company said the last four factors were likely to affect profits in future years as well. In addition, Bulmer said, it was expecting to have to write off "an as yet unquantified amount" from the £22m goodwill on its American acquisitions.

Bulmer, which lost its chief executive and finance director after the discovery of a £3.8m black hole in its promotions department, said there would be no dividend for the year to April 2002, and "no current intentions" to pay a dividend for the year ending April 2003.

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