· Ebro Puleva posted a net profit of 130.7 million euro in the first nine months of 2006, up 4.3% year on year.
· Its EBITDA was up 7% to 208 million euro.
· A successful divestment policy and strong cash generation helped to reduce the debt by 15.5 million euro year on year, in spite of the investment of $362.5 millionin the acquisition of New World Pasta.
· The consolidated results posted for this nine-month period are consequential of the new strategic plan and herald excellent prospects for the Group¿s future growth.
· For the full year 2006, Ebro Puleva estimates growth of over 19% in turnover and by more than 18% in net profit to 185 million euro, with earnings per share of 1.20.
Madrid, 30 October 2006. The Ebro Puleva Group posted a turnover of 1,975 million euro in the first nine months of 2006, a 20.3% growth on the same period of 2005, chalking up a net profit of 130.7 million euro, up 4.3% year on year.
The EBITDA, or gross operating profit, grew by 7% to 208 million euro. Investment in advertising was raised 75% to 54.5 million euro as part of the brand commitment policy and backing for high value added products.
The considerable reduction of debt was one of the most important achievements in the period. Despite the huge outlay required to buy New World Pasta, the group¿s debt was brought down by 15.5 million euro year on year. This was achieved through the combined effects of a successful policy of disinvestment in real estate and non-strategic businesses and the strong generation of cash.
Stabilisation of the market and the upswing in international sugar prices combined to push the turnover of the sugar division up to 533.7 million euro, a year-on-year growth of 10.3%. It recorded a EBITDA of 71 million euro, reaching the levels we estimated for the full year 2006 in a presentation remitted to the National Securities Market Commission (CNMV) last February.
The results of the rice division are still being dragged down by the high raw material prices, restructuring expenses, the closing of industrial plant and the sharp increase in expenditure on promoting new products and penetrating new markets, which rose by 29% year on year. Sales slipped by 1% to ¿506 million and EBITDA fell 15% to 45.5 million euro. On the other hand, the brand business is booming and Riviana, continuing its outstanding track record within the Group, raised its turnover by 2.6% and its EBITDA by 2% year on year.
The positive effects obtained through the restructuring made last year were somewhat watered down by the hike in energy costs and the rising price of the raw material. Nevertheless, thanks to the excellent performance of the Max range and the latest products launched, the division has maintained a satisfactory evolution. The division achieved a EBITDA/Sales margin of 11%, as turnover slid 2.95% following the sale of the Leyma brand (concluded in August 2005) and EBITDA increased by 2.25% year on year.
The pasta division has posted excellent results once again, proving the importance of its incorporation as a core business of the Group. Just four months after the consolidation of New World Pasta, the division recorded a total turnover of 405.4 million euro and an EBITDA of ¿60 million.
The benefits of branching into new businesses and new geographical markets
The consolidated 3Q results show that the new strategic plan is bearing fruit. We have managed to offset the smaller yield of the sugar business and withstand the current difficulties on the raw materials markets (rice, wheat, energy and, more recently, milk) with the new development model implemented in the rice business, based on branching out into new geographical markets, with new sources of raw material and new higher value added products, the recent acquisition of New World Pasta, which in just four months has contributed ¿80 million to the division turnover and 14 million euro to its EBITDA, and the outstanding performance of our brands, which are constantly gaining ground on their respective markets. The forthcoming inclusion of Minute Rice within our consolidated group, the convergence and generation of synergies among our American businesses and our good start in new countries bode extremely well for the Group¿s growth over the next three years.
Furthermore, development of the biofuels business is making good progress. The bioethanol plant at Babilafuente, now fully operational, will produce a total of 100 million litres, 50% of its present capacity, up to year-end. This entire production is exported to countries such as France, Sweden and Germany. As for the biodiesel plant planned in Jédula (Cadiz), the public reporting formalities have been completed and we are now waiting for authorisation from the Environmental, Agricultural and Innovation Departments of the Andalusian Regional Government to start building.
Proyections at 31 December 2006
Ebro Puleva expects to reach a turnover of 2,703 million euro for the full-year 2006, 19.2% more than in 2005. An EBITDA of 306 million euro is expected, 9% up on 2005, and an EBIT of over 208 million euro, a year-on-year growth of 6%. These estimates point to a net profit up at least 18% to over 185 million euro in 2006. Earnings per share would be raised by an equal proportion to 1.20.