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March 1 (Reuters) - Canadian pork processor Maple Leaf Foods Inc posted a better-than-expected fourth-quarter profit as margins in its prepared meats business improved.
Adjusted operating profit in the meat products group, which includes brands such as Schneiders and the company's namesake Maple Leaf brand, was C$54.6 million, compared with a year-ago loss of C$19.1 million.
The Mississauga, Canada-based company said margins at the business were helped partly by lower operating costs in its new prepared meat plants and pricing.
Maple Leaf, which recently completed a restructuring program started in 2010 to boost earnings by shutting or modernizing factories, raised its quarterly dividend by 1 Canadian cent per share to 9 Canadian cents per share.
Excluding items, Maple Leaf earned 25 Canadian cents per share, beating the average analyst estimate of 21 Canadian cents, according to Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S.
Net profit was C$33.3 million ($24.6 million), or 24 Canadian cents per share, for the fourth quarter ended Dec. 31, versus a net loss of C$28.2 million, or 20 Canadian cents per share, a year earlier.
Revenue rose nearly 10 percent to C$873.1 million in the latest quarter. ($1 = C$1.35) (Reporting by Rod Nickel in Winnipeg, Manitoba and Anet Josline Pinto in Bengaluru; Editing by Savio D'Souza and Sayantani Ghosh)