Media Centre
2001/04/27

Maple Leaf Foods Reports 60% Increase In First Quarter Operating Earnings

Toronto, Ontario - Maple Leaf Foods Inc. (TSE:MFI) today announced its results for the quarter ended March 31, 2001. Mr. Michael H. McCain, President and Chief Executive Officer of Maple Leaf Foods said "We are pleased to report that substantial progress was made in the financial performance of the Company in the first quarter of 2001, as both sales and earnings grew significantly over last year."

Financial Results

Sales for the quarter of $1,054.9 million increased 29% from $818.3 million last year. Earnings from operations for the quarter of $30.8 million increased 60% from $19.2 million last year. (Operating earnings in the first quarter last year excluded $18.5 million of capitalized start-up losses at the Brandon fresh pork facility.) The Meat Products Group and the Bakery Products Group both reported increased earnings while the Agribusiness Products Group reported lower earnings. Net earnings of $9.7 million ($0.09 per share) were up 76% for the quarter from $5.5 million ($0.05 per share) last year. While significantly higher quarter-over-quarter energy costs adversely affected earnings, the Company is focused on initiatives to mitigate the effect of these higher costs.

Meat Products Group

Meat Products Group sales of $689.4 million compared to $470.8 million last year. The large increase in sales was primarily due to the inclusion of sales from the Brandon facility (which were not included in the first quarter last year) and from businesses acquired since the first quarter of 2000. Operating profit of $10.4 million compared to an operating loss of $1.9 million last year. The $12.3 million improvement in operating earnings is before taking into account $18.5 million of Brandon start-up losses incurred last year.

Maple Leaf Pork reported significantly improved earnings compared to last year. Planned operational improvements were achieved at the Brandon facility. While the Brandon facility was not profitable for the quarter, we expect it will achieve profitability during 2001. The impact of livestock disease outbreaks in the European markets over the past several months has been largely neutral to the Company; however, the situation is being monitored closely. During the quarter, the purchase of the Winnipeg, Manitoba fresh pork operations of Schneider Corporation was completed.

Maple Leaf Consumer Foods and Maple Leaf Foods International both recorded significantly improved results over year ago largely due to improved margins and strong volumes.

Bakery Products Group

Bakery Product Group sales of $163.6 million compared to $153.5 million last year. Operating profits of $6.2 million were up 100% from $3.1 million last year. Canada Bread reported an increase in operating earnings due to increased sales, improvements in product mix and ongoing cost reduction initiatives. A line of Dempster’s whole grain breads was launched nationally during the quarter, bringing to market the first leading grain bread made from whole grain flour.

In the United States, Maple Leaf Bakery achieved anticipated earnings, representing a significant change from the losses recorded in the first quarter last year. With strong sales momentum, improving product mix and higher plant utilization rates, Maple Leaf Bakery is expected to contribute increasingly to operating earnings throughout the year.

During the quarter, Canada Bread announced that it had reached an agreement to purchase the remaining 75% of Multi-Marques to bring its ownership to 100%. The agreement continues to be subject to clearance under the Competition Act.

Agribusiness Group

Agribusiness Group sales of $201.9 million compared to $194.0 million last year. Operating earnings of $14.2 million declined from $18.0 million last year. The decline was principally due to substantial increases in natural gas costs combined with lower commodity prices for Rothsay Rendering, as well as a one-time bad debt related to a feed customer.

Shur-Gain and Landmark Feeds animal nutrition operations continue to record strong earnings, benefiting from our Vertical Coordination pork and poultry value chain strategy. Elite Swine’s results were lower than last year due to lower hog prices. Elite Swine continues to aggressively expand the Elite Swine system, both in Western Canada and in Ontario.

Other Information

Other income for the quarter of $3.5 million compared to $3.2 million last year The Company declared a dividend of $0.04 per share payable on June 29, 2001 to shareholders of record on June 15, 2001.

Mr. McCain said: "We have an unwavering commitment to the vision for the Company as set out in the Annual Report. Solid operational progress was made in the first quarter of 2001 in executing against this vision. Our Leadership initiatives are yielding tangible benefits across the Company. Six Sigma is being rolled out to additional operating units over the course of 2001. Our Vertical Coordination business model and strategy is being fully implemented in all operations that are part of the Pork and Poultry Value Chains. We believe these initiatives will lead to superior shareholder value creation."

A live Webcast of the Annual and Special Meeting will be available commencing at 11:00 a.m at www.mapleleaf.com/live. A replay of the Webcast will be available at the www.mapleleaf.com/webcast shortly after the AGM and will remain available through to July 27, 2001.

A conference call will be held at 3:00 p.m. on April 27, 2001 to review Maple Leaf Foods financial results for the first quarter ended March 31, 2001. Media are welcome to call in and listen. The call will be hosted by: Michael H. McCain, President and Chief Executive Officer; Tom Muir, Chief Financial Officer; and Michael Vels, Executive Vice President, Finance.

To participate in the call, please dial in to 1-800-633-8755. For those who are unable to attend at 3:00 p.m. the call will be taped and posted on 1-800-558-5253 pass code 18737404.


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