George Weston reports a drop in Q1 net earnings but has higher sales

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TORONTO - George Weston Ltd. (TSX:WN) is reporting a first-quarter net profit of $109 million, down 32.7 per cent, from $162 million in the same quarter of 2013.

Earnings per share were 78 cents compared with $1.19 year-over-year with the Toronto company saying the decrease was due to the year-over-year unfavourable impact of the forward sale agreement for 9.6 million Loblaw common shares and a number of other items.

Adjusted earnings per share remained flat at 83 cents and adjusted operating income increased to $318 million from $313 million year-over-year.

Sales were up 1.6 per cent at $7.61 billion.

The Toronto-based grocery retailer says it's increasing its quarterly dividend to 42 cents, up from 41.5 cents.

For full year 2014, Weston Foods said it expects modest sales growth, but adjusted operating income is expected to decline due to such things as plant start-up costs, marketing, and the performance of its frozen dough business.

George Weston also warned its second-quarter results will face pressure from higher costs.

In the first quarter, Weston Foods sales increased by 5.9 per cent to $449 million, up from $424 million year-over-year, with a foreign currency translation positively impacting sales by about 4.9 per cent.

Its Loblaw division increased sales in the quarter by 1.2 per cent to $7.2 billion, helped by an increase in revenue from its financial services segment which includes President's Choice Bank, a subsidiary of Loblaw.

Loblaw completed its $12.4-billion deal to acquire Shoppers Drug Mart at the end of March.

"This transaction combines Canada's number-one grocery retailer and number-one pharmacy and beauty retailer, and positions us extremely well to meet the changing needs of Canadian consumers," Galen Weston, executive chairman of George Weston Ltd., said in a news release on Tuesday.

Organizations: George Weston Ltd., Loblaw, TSX Weston Foods Choice Bank Shoppers Drug Mart

Geographic location: TORONTO, Canada

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