A year-on-year growth of 11% took our net turnover to €698.7 million, driven by the good performance of our brands.
Our EBITDA (gross operating profit) grew by 8% to €85.4 million, once we finished adjusting our prices to the cost inflation experienced in 2018.
Nevertheless, net profit dropped to €37 million, 15% down on the net profit for the same period of 2018, which had included extraordinary income of €6.8 million from the sale of SOS in Mexico.
Our net debt rose by €88.3 million year to date to €793 million, mainly as a result of applying the new IFRS 16 that modifies the accounting of leases, and the heavy investment we maintain in organic growth. In this regard, we anticipate starting up the skillet gnocchi line in Canada during the first half of this year, and completing the enlargements in Thailand, India and USA (Memphis) in the second half.
The profitability of our North American business picked up thanks to the business restructuring measures at Freeport implemented in 2018 and the passing-on of the higher logistics, packaging and raw materials costs incurred in the previous year.
In Europe, raw material prices hiked following approval of the safeguard clause for rice imports from Cambodia and Myanmar. On the upside, this measure will enable us to increase the productivity of our European plants.
The performance of our brands was positive in both markets. Apart from their growth, they are now leaders in new categories such as cereal mixes, ancient grains, vegetable dishes and pulses.
The division turnover was €386.2 million and its EBITDA €50.3 million.
Negotiations with distributors created a complex scenario in the European market in the first quarter. Those negotiations were successfully closed thanks to our strong position in the market.
Garofalo maintains its strong growth, especially in Spain, France and Switzerland, where it is leader in the premium segment. Our other Italian company, Bertagni, is now fully consolidated in the Group.
In North America, we are still trying to recover our margins and strengthen our position. Our “gluten free” and “supergreens” specialities performed particularly well in Canada.
The division turnover was €327.9 million and its EBITDA €38.2 million.
A quarter of intense activity and good prospects
We have achieved a satisfactory start to 2019, with a very positive quarter in sales thanks to the excellent performance of our brands, which increased their market shares. In the United States, we are beginning to see positive results from our action plan for recovering the margins in our rice business, getting back on track for profits in these first three months. We have also expanded Garofalo’s product range with a new category of premium fresh pasta, which we have now launched in the markets of Italy, France, Switzerland and Sweden. The new products launched in both of our core businesses are going down very well with consumers. So we have left behind the difficulties encountered in 2018 and look forward to 2019 with optimism and good prospects.