– Net turnover totalled 2,002.9 million euro
– The consolidated net debt was reduced by 33.8%, to 349 million euro, while shareholders’ equity grew by 8% to 911 million euro, bringing the leverage ratio down to 38.3% in 2003, compared to 62.5% in the previous year
– Ebro Puleva distributed a dividend of 36.9 million euro among its shareholders, 25% more than that paid in 2002
Madrid, 25 February 2003. Ebro Puleva, the leading group in the Spanish food sector, broke through the 100 million euro threshold for the first time in 2003, posting a consolidated net profit of 100.8 million euro, 5.1% up on the previous year. In its core businesses (sugar, dairy and rice), the net profit totalled 86 million euro, with a year-on-year growth of 23%. Earnings per share (EPS) totalled 0.65 euro, 5.1% more than last year.
Ebro Puleva considerably reduced its consolidated net debt (-33.8%), bringing it down to 349 million euro. If the investment in Iansa is recorded by the equity method, the debt would be down 35.7% to 248.5 million euro.
In contrast, shareholders’ equity grew by 8% to 911 million euro, bringing the leverage ratio down to 38.3% in 2003, compared to 62.5% in the previous year. These figures show that the Ebro Puleva Group has a very sound financial base and a high borrowing capacity to finance its growth.
The value of the Ebro Puleva shares rose 15.9% in 2003, and its shareholders obtained an additional return of 2.9% through the dividend paid out in 2003. The Ebro Puleva shares were valued 19% above the average of the European Food Index during 2003.
Ebro Puleva distributed a dividend of 36.9 million euro among its shareholders, 25% more than in 2002. The dividend per share (DPS) was 0.24 euro, paid in quarterly instalments throughout the year. For this year, the Board of Ebro Puleva has resolved to pay a dividend of 0.30 euro per share, equivalent to 46.2 million euro, another increase of 25%.
The net turnover of Ebro Puleva was 2,002.9 million euro. Comparable sales dropped 4% year on year, after eliminating the effect of the businesses that have been sold (Proterra and Jesús Navarro). Excluding these transactions, turnover is down 7.3%.
Development by lines of business
Azucarera Ebro achieved a very significant growth in sugar sales during 2003, pushing them up by 4.7%, as a result of improvements in sales to industrial clients and distributors and in sugar exports.
The most significant factor affecting Azucarera Ebro in 2003 was the launching of its industrial modernisation and restructuring plan in Castile-Leon, entailing the discontinuance of milling at Benavente (Zamora) and Monzón de Campos (Palencia) and the conversion of those factories for other industrial uses, namely the building of a malthouse and a distillery in Monzón, and a logistics centre in Benavente. As a result, the remaining Azucarera Ebro factories have achieved an average production capacity of over 100,000 tonnes of sugar, making them competitive with the average European production centres.
The dairy division of Ebro Puleva maintained a positive development during 2003, with sharp rises in the sales especially of high value added products (Puleva Calcio and Puleva Omega 3). Two significant operations were concluded last year. On the one hand, the company bought back the Puleva trademark for baby foods from Abbott Laboratories. And on the other hand, it split the business into two companies: Puleva Food, with the Puleva brand name for milks, dairy products (fermented products and flavoured milks or milkshakes) and baby foods; and Lactimilk, with the brand names Ram, Leyma, El Castillo and Nadó. This operation was designed to focus the Group’s brand names and create a greater value overall.
The rice division (Herba) undertook an strong international expansion in 2003, buying up companies and trademarks in Austria, Denmark, Germany and Hungary. Ebro Puleva also stepped up its presence in the UK, following the takeover of a company operating on that market. Through all these operations, Ebro Puleva has maintained its leadership of the rice sector on the European market and moved into adjacent segments with a high growth potential, such as frozen pasta. Ebro Puleva has an extensive European network, both industrial and commercial, which is one of the mainstays of the Group’s international expansion.
Iansa (Chile), in which Ebro Puleva has a 23% stake, has had a complicated year. Management concentrated in 2003 on improving the yield. The Chilean Parliament passed a new law during the year regulating sugar imports and sugar blends. The new legislation is very favourable for Iansa, since it establishes a stable regulatory framework up to 2014.
Puleva Biotech achieved a highly positive development in 2003. This biotechnology company has become firmly established as the R+D+i arm of Ebro Puleva. New patent applications were filed in 2003, the research lines were extended (obesity and diabetes) and mid-year the company began producing and selling Omega-3, Puleva Biotech’s first product on the market.
Prospects for 2004
This year, Ebro Puleva plans to continue developing its business in line with its strategic plan. In this respect, certain investments are being considered for 2004 that would enable Ebro Puleva to expand its business activities, strengthen its leadership in Spain and grow within Europe.
Highlights from 2003
· Purchase from Kraft Foods of its rice brands in Austria, Denmark and Germany.
· Purchase from Abbott Laboratories of the Puleva trademark for baby foods.
· Takeover of Stevens & Brotherton by Joseph Heap, a subsidiary of Ebro Puleva, in the UK.
· Purchase of Riceland-Magyarország in Hungary.
· Acquisition of Danrice and Danpasta in Denmark.
· Sale of the 50% stake held in Jesús Navarro.
· More than fifty real-estate properties.
· 25% increase in the dividend in 2004: 0.30 euro per share.
· Reform of the Ebro Puleva Bylaws: total removal of all restrictions on the exercise of voting rights.
· Instituto Hispánico del Arroz (the Spanish Rice Institute) purchased Mercasa’s stake in Ebro Puleva (4.2%).
· Scrip issue: 1 new share for every 4 old shares.
· The industrial restructuring plan undertaken by Azucarera Ebro in Castile-Leon.
· Enactment of the “Price Band Law” in Chile.