Maple Leaf Foods posts loss from continuing operations


By Rod Nickel

Oct 30 (Reuters) - Canadian food processor Maple Leaf Foods on Wednesday reported lower-than-expected results forthe third quarter, hurt mainly by weakness in its meat business.

Excluding special items, the company, which is undergoing amajor restructuring, posted a loss of 1 Canadian cent per share,compared with a year-earlier profit of 13 Canadian cents.

Analysts on average had expected earnings of 8 Canadiancents a share, according to Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S.

The Toronto-based company, one of Canada's biggest porkprocessors and bakers, said revenue slipped 2.5 percent toC$1.15 billion ($1.10 billion). Analysts had forecast C$1.2billion.

Shares of Maple Leaf fell 1.5 percent to C$15.07 in earlytrading.

Maple Leaf's results missed expectations mainly because ofpoor performance in the meat division, said analyst RobertGibson of Octagon Capital.

"This is a very challenging period of transition for theMaple Leaf organization, as the short-term impact of volatileprotein market conditions, combined with the significant cost ofchange, has been material," Chief Executive Officer MichaelMcCain said in a statement.

Maple Leaf is carrying out a multiyear program to upgradeits meat operations by modernizing some plants and shutting downothers as it seeks to boost profits and better compete with U.S.rivals.

Third-quarter net income from continuing operations fell toC$14,000, or a loss of 2 Canadian cents a share to commonstockholders. The company posted earnings of C$11.4 million, or6 Canadian cents a share, a year earlier on that basis.

Maple Leaf began an auction last week for its 90 percentstake in Canada Bread Co Ltd. It targeted Mexico'sGrupo Bimbo, one of the world's largest breadmakers, and private equity firms, as potential buyers, accordingto several people familiar with the matter.

In August, Maple Leaf struck a deal to sell its Rothsayrendering business to Darling International Inc forC$645 million.

Canada Bread also said earlier this week that it would sellits fresh pasta business Olivieri to Spain's Ebro Foods SA for C$120 million.

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