Maple Leaf profit beats as margins improve

Reuters — Canadian pork processor Maple Leaf Foods posted a better-than-expected fourth-quarter profit as margins in its prepared meats business improved.

Adjusted operating profit in the meat products group, which includes brands such as Schneiders and the company’s namesake Maple Leaf brand, was $54.6 million, compared with a year-ago loss of $19.1 million.

The Mississauga-based company said margins at the business were helped partly by lower operating costs in its new prepared meat plants and pricing.

Maple Leaf, which recently completed a restructuring program started in 2010 to boost earnings by shutting or modernizing factories, raised its quarterly dividend by one cent per share, to nine cents.

Excluding items, Maple Leaf earned 25 cents per share, beating the average analyst estimate of 21 cents, according to Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S.

Net profit was $33.3 million (24 cents a share) for the fourth quarter ended Dec. 31, versus a net loss of $28.2 million, or 20 cents per share, a year earlier.

Revenue rose nearly 10 per cent to $873.1 million in the latest quarter.

Reporting for Reuters by Rod Nickel in Winnipeg and Anet Josline Pinto in Bangalore.

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