Ebro Puleva has consolidated its position as the leading food company in Spain with 2002 sales of €2.2 billion.
Ebro is active in three key business areas - sugar, with a 70 per cent market share, dairy products, where it has a 15 per cent market share, and rice, where it is the market leader with 41 per cent of total domestic sales and more than 30 per cent of the entire European market.
The company yesterday reported an increase in net profits to €95.6 million, while EBITDA rose to €275.5 million. Net profits would have reached €126 million if not for exceptional charges of €30.5 million relating to discontinued operations in Portugal.
Operating margin increased to 13 per cent in 2002, helped by an improved product mix, new product launches and operating efficiencies.
In the dairy sector, sales reached €522.2 million, and EBITDA increased by 15. 4 per cent to €49.1 million. Much of the good performance was built on the successful launch of a range of functional dairy products and dairy drinks, which have a high added value. Ebro also claimed that its Puleva brand of milk was the only one to show any growth in 2002, with its Puleva Calcio and Puleva Omega 3 functional brands showing the most growth.
The company's innovation subsidiary, Puleva Biotech, had an excellent first year as a separately quoted company, with net profits reaching €1.2 million. The division filed four international patents during the year, and has begun working on research and development projects for other companies operating in the food and drink business.
Ebro Puleva also operates outside of Europe, and its Chilean operations were badly hit by the Latin American economic crisis. Sales reached €441 million, while EBITDA was down 27 per cent to €31.4 million.
The company said it expected 2003 to be a year of change, in particular to its portfolio of businesses, driven by expected upheavals in the regulatory structure and consumer habits in its core markets.