* H1 sales up 7 percent to 1.63 bln pounds
* Adjusted profit before tax up 2 percent
* Expects progress this financial year
* Shares down 1.4 pct
By Stephen Mangan
LONDON, Nov 8 (Reuters) - British sweeteners and starches maker Tate & Lyle Plc said the cost of re-opening a factory and tough trading in Europe had reduced earnings growth in its first half.
The group posted adjusted pretax profit of 179 million pounds ($286 million), up 2 percent, stifled by the cost of restarting a second plant for its zero-calorie sucralose sweetener Splenda in Alabama earlier this year.
First-half sales rose 7 percent to 1.63 billion pounds, despite uncertainty around the wider economy and corn quality and pricing.
Chief Executive Javed Ahmed said the group made progress against the backdrop of a strong first half last year, softer market conditions in Europe and the steep change in fixed costs associated with the restart of its Alabama facility.
“We continue to do fine in Europe but we just haven’t seen a lot of growth,” he told reporters on Thursday.
Tate & Lyle said it continued to expect to make progress this financial year.
The company dusted down its McIntoch sucralose plant in Alabama earlier this year as its sole plant in Singapore was struggling to cope with demand.
Shares in the group, which had a strong run into the results, rising 19 percent since Sept. 10, fell in early trade.
The stock was 1.4 percent down at 723 pence by 1019 GMT.
Graham Jones, analyst at Panmure Gordon, said the results were pretty much in line with his expectations.
“The company is very healthy, has high margins and its shares have been strong in the run up to the results, so I wouldn’t read too much into a slight decrease in its stock,” he said.