Charge drives Chiquita's earnings down

by Keith Nunes
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CINCINNATI — Chiquita Brands International, Inc. suffered a loss of $323.7 million during fiscal year 2008, ended Dec. 31, 2008. During fiscal year 2007, the company recorded a $49 million loss. Sales for the year were $3,609 million during fiscal 2008 compared with $3,464 million during the previous fiscal year.

The company attributed the loss primarily to an asset impairment charge taken by the company’s Salads and Healthy Snacks segment during the fourth quarter of $375 million.

Minus the one-time asset impairment charge, Chiquita Brands said it earned $48.6 million, equal to $1.12 per share on the common stock, during fiscal 2008. The adjusted results compare with an adjusted loss of $6.9 million the company said it experienced during fiscal 2007.

For the fourth quarter, Chiquita Brands recorded a loss of $411.9 million, which compared with a $26 million loss the company recorded during the same period during fiscal 2007. Sales for the quarter were $839.3 million compared with $840.4 million during fiscal 2007.

"We overcame unprecedented cost challenges in 2008 and significantly improved comparable full year results versus 2007," said Fernando Aguirre, chairman and chief executive officer. "We sold non-strategic assets, strengthened our financial position, reduced controllable costs, extended our geographic growth and continued positioning the company for long-term success."

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