Ebro Puleva warns over Chilean impact

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Spain's Ebro Puleva group has posted a 2.5 per cent rise in net
profits for the first nine months of the year, but has warned that
the impact of its Chilean unit will push down both sales and
profits for the full year.

Spanish food group Ebro Puleva has reported net profits of €75.5 million in the first nine months of the year, a 2.5 per cent increase on the same period last year, bucking the generally downward trend in the Spanish economy.

The company said in a statement that its operating profits for the period were almost unchanged compared to 2001 at €193.3 million, up just 0.2 per cent, while turnover was 4.9 per cent higher at €1.6 billion. All figures exclude the impact of the group's loss-making Chilean unit, however.

The good performance in Spain was attributed to a number of factors, including lower rice costs and the increase in sales of functional milk products. Sugar sales were 8 per cent lower than in the previous year, however, mainly due to a decline in export sales.

The group's dairy activities posted sales of €390.2 million, down 5.9 per cent compared to the previous year, but Ebro Puleva highlighted the fact that EBITDA from the dairy unit was up 16.8 per cent to €36.2 million. Rice sales were 14.5 per cent higher at €336.4 million.

The company said that it was pleased with the development of its core activities, which had offset the negative impact of its business in Chile and poor results from its real estate business. Including the Chilean operations, sales were down 2.6 per cent to €1.3 billion during the period, and the company warned that the South American business would continue to take its toll on results for some time to come, given the economic uncertainties there.

Ebro Puleva said it expected to post full-year net profits of €83.1 million, a decline of 12.6 per cent on the previous year due almost entirely to an increase in exceptional items of around 72 per cent related in no small par to the uncertainties in Chile. EBITDA would be around 5.5 per cent less at €260 million, the company said.

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