· The consolidated net debt has been cut by 24% to 341.7 million euro
· Earnings per share (EPS) grew 15.2%
Madrid, 24 October 2003. Ebro Puleva, leading group in the Spanish food sector, chalked up a consolidated net profit of 87 million euro in the first nine months of 2003, representing a year-on-year growth of 15.2%. The growth in net profit in the Group¿s core businesses (sugar, dairy and rice) was 16.2%. Earnings per share also recorded a two-digit growth, of 15.2%.
The consolidated net debt of Ebro Puleva has been cut by 24% over the period, bringing it down to 341.7 million euro. This is equivalent to 39% of the shareholders¿ equity of Ebro Puleva at September 2003, totalling 893.4 million euro.
The net turnover was 1,507 million euro, 8% down on the same period of last year. This slide in income was due mainly to the effect of the divestments made by Ebro Puleva in non-strategic businesses (sale of Proterra, which sliced revenues by 53.7 million euro) or in companies in which it did not control management (sale of Jesús Navarro, with the effect of reducing turnover by a further 8.3 million euro). The sale of these companies has reduced the Group¿s total turnover, but has helped to increase its overall yield. Not counting these transactions, the consolidated turnover has dropped by 4%.
Development by lines of business
Azucarera Ebro has recorded a significant growth in sugar sales (+5.8%) up to September 2003, pushed up by improved sales to industrial clients and distribution outlets, and a major increase in sugar exports.
Castile-Leon sugar factories restructuring and modernisation plan
In recent months, Azucarera Ebro has set underway a plan to restructure and modernise its industrial plant in Castile-Leon, involving the shutdown of milling at the factories in Benavente (Zamora) and Monzón de Campos (Palencia). With this plan, the factories of Azucarera Ebro have raised their average production capacity to over 100,000 tonnes, putting them on a competitive level in respect of the European average.
The dairy division of Ebro Puleva constantly increases its yield, through its firm commitment to the development of enriched milks, valued highly by consumers, and abandoning the production of litres with a smaller value added component. The Puleva brand increased its sales by around 7%, in terms of value. Overall, the gross operating profit on this line of business grew by 6% over the period.
The rice division (Herba) witnessed a significant upturn in the industrial rice segment during the third quarter, which indicates a change in trend in respect of previous quarters. In the brands segment, profits rose by 17% year-on-year at September 2003.
Iansa (Chile), in which Ebro Puleva holds a 23% stake, increased the volume of sugar sales by over 14%. Even so, the yield of the Chilean group still drag down the overall results of Ebro Puleva.
Chile: stable regulatory framework up to 2014
In August of this year, the Chilean Parliament passed a new law regulating sugar imports and sugar mixes. The approval of these regulations, known as the ¿Price Band Law¿, is very favourable for Iansa, since it establishes a regulatory framework of stability up to 2014.
Ourlook for year-end 2003
Ebro Puleva anticipates good year-end results, considering the favourable development of the business in general. Furthermore, the fourth quarter is usually one of the best periods for the Ebro Puleva businesses.
Highlights of the third quarter 2003
· Purchase of licences from Abbott Laboratories. Ebro Puleva reached an agreement with Abbot Laboratories to purchase the Puleva trade marks registered in Class 5, which includes baby milks, and has recovered the marketing licences for the Puleva trade marks in Class 30, covering cereal-based baby foods. The total cost of the operation was 11 million dollars.
· Approval of the ¿Price Band Law¿ in Chile. In August, the Chilean Parliament passed a new law regulating sugar imports and mixes. The regulatory framework established by this new law guarantees stability up to 2014.
· Industrial restructuring plan in Castile-Leon. Azucarera Ebro has undertaken an industrial restructuring and modernisation plan in Castile-Leon, entailing the shutdown of the sugar mills at Benavente (Zamora) and Monzón de Campos (Palencia). As a result, the Azucarera Ebro factories have reached a production capacity of over 100,000 tonnes, putting them on a competitive level in respect of the European average.
· Takeover of Stevens&Brotherton by Joseph Heap in the UK. In September, Joseph Heap, Ebro Puleva¿s subsidiary in the UK, resolved to take over Stevens&Brotherton. This operation puts the Group in a leadership position in the rice sector of that country, especially in segments (such as ethnic rice) with a high growth potential.