Saputo mozzarella cheese
Saputo's net earnings in the year ended March 31 were up nearly 22% from fiscal 2016.

MONTREAL — Despite a challenging fourth quarter, fiscal 2017 overall “was a good year,” Lino Anthony Saputo, vice-chairman and chief executive officer of Saputo, Inc., said during a June 1 conference call with analysts.

Net earnings in the year ended March 31 totaled C$731.1 million ($540.9 million), equal to C$1.86 per share on the common stock, up nearly 22% from C$601.4 million, or C$1.53 per share, in fiscal 2016. Revenues increased 1.6% to C$11,162.6 million ($8,288.7 million) from C$10,991.5 million.

In the company’s U.S. business, adjusted EBITDA for the full year increased 1.2% to C$734.2 million from C$725.5 million, while sales rose 0.4% to C$5,812.4 million from C$5,786.7 million.

Lino Anthony Saputo, Saputo
Lino Anthony Saputo, vice-chairman and c.e.o. of Saputo, Inc.

“In our U.S. sector, we generated solid results, mainly due to higher sales volumes and benefited from a better alignment of selling prices with fluctuating commodity prices and a lower ingredient cost,” Mr. Saputo said. “Our Cheese Division introduced new products and generated sales growth by securing business with current customers and increasing volumes. Our Dairy Foods Division worked closely with customers to develop new value-added products, which strengthened our position in core categories. Additionally, we continued to invest in our infrastructure, enhancing our network and increasing our production capacity for future demand.”

During the call Mr. Saputo said the company “is very active” on the merger and acquisition front. He said the company typically has three to four potential targets in mind at all times, but currently Saputo is active on four to five.

“We’re optimistic that in this fiscal year something will materialize,” he said. “Some of them are medium-sized, and some of them are large-sized, but we have good comfort that we’re active and could be leading contenders in any one of these four or five files.”

Asked by an analyst whether the potential deals are short term or long term, Mr. Saputo responded, “We’re hoping all of them will be sooner than later, and we’re putting a lot of energy toward that. Our legal teams are busy, and our M.&A. teams are busy. So if it doesn’t happen at a rapid pace, it’s not our doing because we’re ready, we’re eager, we’re active, and we’re hungry.”