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Maple Leaf Foods Posts Profit, Listeria Crisis Past

Maple Leaf Foods Inc., returned to profit in the third quarter on strong performances at its bakery and prepared meats divisions as it recovered from the effects of a costly tainted meat recall last year.

Maple Leaf said Oct. 28 it earned $22.5 million, or 17 Canadian cents a share, in the third quarter, ended Sept. 30, compared with a loss of $12.9 million, or 10 Canadian cents a share, in the same period a year earlier, when it was reeling from the effects of the deadly meat scandal.

Adjusted for the impact of restructuring and product recalls, the company earned 21 Canadian cents a share, compared with 13 Canadian cents for the same period last year.

Revenue slipped four per cent to $1.3 billion due to lower fresh meat prices.

Analysts had expected, on average, adjusted earnings per share of 14 Canadian cents on revenue of $1.31 billion, according to Thomson Reuters.

In a separate release, Canada Bread, Maple Leaf’s bakery division, said it earned $25.1 million, or 99 Canadian cents, up from $19.7 million, or 77 Canadian cents, for the same period a year earlier.

Maple Leaf shares have risen 52 per cent over the past year.

“It looks like they have put the listeria crisis behind them,” said Robert Gibson, an analyst at Octagon Capital. “It’s business as usual for them.”

Contaminated del i meats from a Maple Leaf food-processing plant in Toronto were linked to at least 20 deaths in 2008. After an extensive investigation, the company said it believed two slicers at the plant had been harbouring listeria bacteria.

Earlier this year it reached a $25-million settlement in a series of class-action lawsuits related to the listeriosis outbreak.

However, two months ago the company recalled nine wiener products produced under three of its brands at its plant in Hamilton, Ontario, saying there was a possibility that they may have contained traces of listeria bacteria.

The August 2008 listeria outbreak also prompted Canada to upgrade its food inspection system and hire more inspectors at a cost of about $75 million.

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