November 25, 2015 / 12:01 PM / 2 years ago

UPDATE 2-Canadian meat packer Maple Leaf to cut 400 manager jobs

(Adds company comments, share movement)

By Anet Josline Pinto and Rod Nickel

Nov 25 (Reuters) - Maple Leaf Foods Inc said on Wednesday it would cut 400 management jobs, or about 3 percent of its workforce, saying it was ready to streamline operations after starting up Canada's biggest meat plant.

Maple Leaf, one of the country's biggest pork processors, said the majority of the job cuts would be completed by the end of 2015 and the rest in 2016.

Nearly half of the positions are based in the Mississauga, Ontario, head office, said spokesman Dave Bauer. Sixty-four are based at the new Hamilton, Ontario meat plant, where analysts noted excess staff and supervisors during a recent tour, and the rest of the job cuts are scattered across Canada.

Senior management, led by Chief Executive Michael McCain, remains intact, Bauer said.

Maple Leaf shares rose 0.9 percent to C$21.39 in Toronto, briefly touching a nearly four-week high.

Maple Leaf rolled out a program in 2010 to boost earnings by shutting some plants and modernizing others, and the company has struggled to be profitable during that period.

Its third-quarter profit was only its second in the past 11 quarters, and was slightly smaller than expected as the company flagged inefficiencies in starting new plants.

"After years of change and transformation, we're now in a position to streamline the organization so we can operate as efficiently as possible," Bauer said. He declined to disclose the savings or one-time costs involved with the cuts.

Reuters reported the job cuts on Tuesday, citing people familiar with the matter.

Last month, Maple Leaf delayed into 2016 its target for increasing earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortization as a percentage of revenue to 10 percent.

Bauer said the job cuts would have only a small impact on reaching that target.

Maple Leaf's free cash flow is set to grow next year, and the company has said it is interested in acquisitions in poultry processing or meat production.

The job cuts are not intended to make Maple Leaf more attractive for takeover, Bauer said.

The Ontario-based company employs about 12,000 people in Canada. (Reporting by Anet Josline Pinto and Sneha Banerjee in Bengaluru and Rod Nickel in Winnipeg; additional reporting by Euan Rocha in Toronto; Editing by Kirti Pandey and Meredith Mazzilli)

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