Bananas boost Fresh Del Monte Produce earnings

by Keith Nunes
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CORAL GABLES, FLA. — The performance of its banana business unit helped Fresh Del Monte Produce Inc. record improved earnings for the second quarter of fiscal 2009. Net income in the second quarter ended June 26 was $52.9 million, equal to 82c per share on the common stock. During the same period of fiscal 2008 Fresh Del Monte Inc. posted net income of $42.2 million, or 66c per share.

Sales for the quarter were $978.4 million, which compared with $972.2 million.

"We are pleased with our second-quarter performance, given the extremely challenging economic environment," said Mohammad Abu-Ghazaleh, chief executive officer. "Our impressive performance in the quarter validates the advantages of our strategy and business model.

"Our continued focus on improvements in operating efficiencies and cost control initiatives, along with our commitment to sustain one of the strongest balance sheets in the industry, delivered significant benefits during the quarter. We are extremely gratified with the solid performance of our core products. We saw strong results in our banana business, primarily due to the benefit of higher worldwide banana selling prices, combined with continued industry-wide supply shortages. Our premium gold pineapple category continued to grow; we achieved significant efficiencies in our fresh-cut category; and importantly, we began to see signs of improvement in our melon product category during the quarter."

For the first six months of fiscal 2009, Fresh Del Monte Produce Inc. had net income of $88.4 million, or $1.37 per share, down from $104.9 million, or $1.67 per share, in the first half of fiscal 2008.

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