The Group’s turnover grew by 19.4% year on year, mainly thanks to the good performance of the rice division, the contribution by Garofalo and the foreign exchange effect, rising to €597 million.
Ebro posted an EBITDA, or gross operating profit, of €69.7 million, up 2% year on year, while its net profit was down 22% at €30.2 million, owing to the absence of capital gains (it should be remembered that in 2014 the divestment in Deoleo generated a gain of €9.9 million).
Our net debt stands at €446.3 million, €40 million more than at year-end 2014, mainly due to the evolution of the exchange rate since much of our debt is in US dollars.
Against a backdrop of falling commodity prices owing to the abundant supply and the absence of additional demand, the division maintained a satisfactory evolution in the first three months of the year, bolstered by the good performance of the European businesses and the positive development of the North American business, which is growing in the categories with the highest value added (aromatic rice, Ready-to-Serve and instant rice).
The quarterly results reflect an extraordinarily good performance of our businesses in the Netherlands, UK, Thailand and India and strong growth of the Taureau Ailé brand in France.
The division recorded a turnover of €319.8 million and EBITDA of €43.6 million.
There are signs that commodity prices may return to more reasonable levels with the new harvests, although this quarter prices were far higher than in the same period of 2014.
Business development was strong in France and apart from growing sales of dry and fresh pasta, agreements to adjust prices have been reached with all distributors after intense negotiations with the central purchasing bodies.
Garofalo is having an excellent year and we undertake its international distribution through through Group companies in Spain, France, Portugal, Netherlands and Germany.
The profits of North American business are still being dragged down, not only by the commidity price hike (54% more expensive than in the first quarter of 2014) but also by a highly competitive market, in which it has not been possible to pass on those increased costs in the final price of the product owing to the high level of promotions in the category. In contrast, the performance of the new ranges of gluten-free and ancient grains pastas, with significant health benefits, has been outstanding.
The division recorded a turnover of €289.9 million and EBITDA of €28.1 million.
A satisfactory quarter
In a highly competitive scenario in the pasta area, especially in North America, the company’s consolidated earnings endorse the importance of its sustained commitment to profitability and differentiation and its undertstanding of the market, building up a product portfolio able to keep abreast of population and consumption trends and meet their changing needs.
The trend of our rice subsidiaries has been very satisfactory and we intend to continue consolidating it over the coming quarters with the launching of new products. In the pasta business the lowering of prices of the raw material when the new harvests are brought in will help to restore yield in the second half of the year.