May 2, 2012 / 12:52 PM / in 6 years

Maple Leaf Foods profit falls on lower volumes

(Reuters) - Canadian food processor Maple Leaf Foods Inc (MFI.TO) reported a lower quarterly profit on Wednesday, widely missing Street expectations, as fresh bakery and fresh pork volumes fell.

Weak fresh bakery volumes are an industry-wide problem, said Chief Executive Michael McCain, and partly offset the benefit of price increases the company implemented last year.

“We’re going to have to get a lot of color on what happened in the bakery,” said Robert Gibson, an analyst at Octagon Capital. “Seems to me, people are eating as much bread as they used to.”

Maple Leaf closed two Toronto-area bakeries during the quarter as it consolidates production into its new fresh bakery in Hamilton, Ontario, Canada’s largest, which opened last autumn.

The company’s shares may weaken when trading opens in Toronto, Gibson said, with Maple Leaf holding a conference call on Wednesday afternoon.

Net earnings for the first quarter that ended March 31, fell to C$800,000 ($808,000), or nil earnings per share, from C$10.5 million, or 8 Canadian cents, a year before.

The company incurred C$20.4 million in pretax costs related to a multiyear plan to close some meat plants and modernize others.

Adjusted earnings per share slipped to 11 Canadian cents from 18 cents a year earlier.

Sales for the company, which is one of Canada’s biggest pork processors and bakers, rose 1 percent to C$1.16 billion.

Analysts on average had expected Maple Leaf to earn 19 Canadian cents a share on sales of C$1.17 billion, according to Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S.

Reporting by Rod Nickel in Winnipeg and Bangalore equities newsroom; Editing by Gerald E. McCormick and Maureen Bavdek

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