Maple Leaf Foods Reports Fourth Quarter
Operating Earnings Up 121%; Earnings per Share Double
Toronto, Ontario - Maple Leaf Foods Inc. (TSE:MFI) today announced its unaudited results for the fourth quarter and the year ended December 31, 2001.
Sales for the fourth quarter increased 22% to $1.30 billion from $1.07 billion the previous year reflecting top-line growth in all operating groups. One third of this increase related to operations that were owned throughout the year, while the remainder is due to acquisitions completed during the year. Earnings from operations for the fourth quarter of $57.6 million were up 121% from $26.1 million in 2000. Net earnings for the quarter increased by 96% to $24.7 million ($0.24 per share) compared to $12.6 million ($0.12 per share) in the prior year .
Sales for the year increased 21% to $4.78 billion from $3.94 billion last year. Full year earnings from operations of $157.5 million increased 75% from $90.1 million in 2000. Net earnings of $57.4 million ($0.55 per share) increased 56% from $36.8 million ($0.34 per share) in the prior year. Net earnings in 2000 included a $12.9 million ($0.13 per share) after-tax gain on a sale of short-term investments. Excluding this gain, earnings per share in 2001 of $0.55 compares to $0.21 in 2000.
"We are very pleased with our results for the fourth quarter and for 2001 as a whole, considering the many external issues we faced during the year", said Michael H. McCain, President & Chief Executive Officer of Maple Leaf Foods. "We have made continuous progress in each of our primary business groups and the management team believes we are entering 2002 with significant positive momentum."
Meat Products Group
Meat Products Group sales for the quarter increased 17% to $804.3 million from $685.1 million the previous year, primarily as a result of the inclusion of the results for the Winnipeg fresh pork facility, acquired in the first quarter of 2001. Full year sales increased 27% to $3.1 billion compared to $2.4 billion in 2000. Earnings from operations for the quarter were $23.1 million compared to $1.6 million the prior year. Operating earnings of $38.1 million compared to a loss of $11.2 million in 2000.
The principal factor accounting for the significant increase in earnings was improved results at Maple Leaf Pork. Operational improvements were achieved at all of its facilities, and the Brandon, Manitoba facility contributed to operating earnings in the fourth quarter.
In the rest of the group, although Consumer response to Maple Leaf Prime Naturally chicken, launched in the second quarter, continues to be very positive, however, Maple Leaf Poultry results during the quarter were challenged by industry-wide raw material price increases, and rapid commodity poultry price declines through the fall of 2001. Maple Leaf Consumer Foods achieved significantly improved results over a year ago due to strong results from sales in both Canada and the United States and Maple Leaf Foods International recorded improved results as the negative impact of the safeguard duties in Japan abated.
Bakery Products Group
Bakery Products Group sales increased 62% to $267.8 million from $165.3 million the previous year as a result of the inclusion of results for Multi-Marques, acquired at the beginning of the fourth quarter, and strong sales in Canada and the United States. Full year sales increased 20% to $783.6 million from $650.9 million in 2000. Operating earnings for the quarter rose 140% to $13.8 million from $5.8 million, bringing annual operating earnings to $37.9 million, an increase of 85% over the prior year.
The increase in operating earnings for the quarter reflects continued improvements at Canada Bread and Maple Leaf Bakery in the United States, and contributions from Multi-Marques, the remaining 75% of which was acquired by Canada Bread on October 12, 2001.
The expansion to the Roanoke, Virginia bakery was substantially completed and began operations late in the fourth quarter. The commissioning process has been very smooth to date.
Agribusiness Group sales of $226.0 million in the fourth quarter increased 4% from $218.1 million the previous year. Full year sales increased to $878.7 million from $845.8 million in 2000. Operating earnings for the quarter of $20.7 million were up 10% from $18.8 million in 2000, while full year operating earnings of $81.5 million compared to $80.9 million in the prior year.
The Company's Vertical Coordination pork and poultry value
chain strategy contributed to the Agribusiness Group posting
quarter-over-quarter gains in sales and operating earnings. Shur-Gain and
Landmark Feed's animal nutrition operations continue to record strong results,
benefiting from the Vertical Coordination strategy. The Elite Swine hog
production operation had solid results and continues to expand the Elite Swine
Management system, in both Western Canada and Ontario. Rothsay Rendering
reported improved earnings in the quarter due to declining natural gas prices
and stronger commodity markets.
Other income for the quarter was $2.1 million compared to $11.8 million in the previous year. The primary component of other income in 2000 was real estate development earnings of $10.7 million, with no comparable earnings in 2001.
Interest expense for the quarter of $15.0 million decreased from $16.4 million in the previous year due to lower short-term interest rates. Full year interest expense of $64.4 million was up marginally from $63.7 million in the prior year due to higher average borrowing levels, being largely offset by lower short-term interest rates.
On December 14, 2001, the Company completed a $170 million equity issue. Proceeds from the issue strengthened the Company's balance sheet and better positions the Company to continue to participate in industry consolidation opportunities.
The Company's cash flow from operations for the quarter of $163.3 million was higher than in the previous year due principally to higher earnings, increases in the Company's accounts receivable securitization program and lower investment in working capital.
On February 19, 2002 the Company declared a dividend of $0.04 per share payable on March 29, 2002 to shareholders of record on March 15, 2002.
Maple Leaf Foods Inc. is a leading Canadian-based food processing company. Headquartered in Toronto, Canada, the Company employs more than 13,000 people at its operations across Canada and in the United States, Europe and Asia.
A conference call will be held at 3:00 p.m. (Toronto time) on February 20, 2002 to review Maple Leaf Foods' financial results for the fourth quarter ended December 31, 2001. The call will be hosted by Michael H. McCain, President & Chief Executive Officer; Tom P. Muir, Chief Financial Officer and Michael H. Vels, Executive Vice-President, Finance.
To participate in the call, please dial in to 1-800-530-9010. For those unable to attend, the call will be taped and posted for one month. You may access the tape by dialing 1-800-558-5253, passcode 20323458# or review the transcript on our website.