Speaking to analysts ahead of next month’s interim results announcement (on 5 December), Roberts said that “every part of the business has performed well and is improving” following last summer’s SCA deal, adding that central and eastern Europe and Italy had registered the strongest growth.
Commenting on the firm’s acquisition strategy, Roberts said: “We continue to bed down the SCA acquisition, the cost synergies are all on track, and our customers are rewarding us: we’re not just [incurring] cost we’re seeing the revenues coming through as well now.
“And our customers – putting it bluntly – are saying ‘we would like to see you in some other areas DS Smith; in Europe we would like to see you extending further [because] we like what we see’. They are certainly encouraging us to continue to grow and we’re out there looking.”
However, Roberts warned that the company would not pay over the odds to achieve its goals. “At the end of the day we’ve got to make money for our shareholders and some people we’ve been talking to want some very high prices, which we’re not going to pay, but I think there are a number of opportunities there and we’ll come back in due course,” he said.
Commenting on the group’s progress in the six months to 31 October 2013, Roberts said: “Our packaging business has continued to gain further market share and… Corrugated volume growth remains well in excess of our GDP+1% target.”
Roberts said that DS Smith was seeing “continued gains from the larger [FMCG] players”, while its strategy to become the biggest recycled packaging company in Europe was “building resilience into the growth we’re seeing”.
“The reason we target the FMCG market is because it’s resilient, so it doesn’t rise and fall with the same volatility as the industrial sector,” he said. “So we’re trying to build resilience into our growth and not just ride on the back of a sort of a housing upturn in the UK, which is nice while it lasts but it’s notoriously volatile.”
He added that the larger FMCG businesses were growing “pretty much at the expense of some of the smaller players” and said that there was “more stability” in the market than in recent years, with “growth overall slightly positive”.
“We have some really quite exciting prospects in central and eastern Europe and we really have seen that coming through not just in the last quarter but in the outlook [for] the coming 6-12 months,” he said.