Maple Leaf quarterly profit beats on higher prices, demand

(Reuters) - Canadian meat packaging company Maple Leaf Foods Inc posted a fourth-quarter profit on Wednesday that beat estimates, due to better pricing and high demand for its prepared meats and plant-based protein foods.

The company, one of Canada’s biggest pork processors, is focusing on expanding into new businesses in the United States. Its latest acquisition was the $120 million purchase of vegan foods company Field Roast Grain Meat Co.

Maple Leaf said sales in the reported quarter rose nearly 6 percent to C$876.8 million. However, gross margins fell 14 percent on higher costs.

Net earnings fell to C$59.1 million, or 45 Canadian cents per share, in the fourth quarter ended Dec. 31, from C$76.2 million, or 56 Canadian cents per share, a year earlier.

Excluding items, the company earned 41 Canadian cents per share, beating analysts’ average estimate by 2 Canadian cents, according to Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S.

Reporting by Akshara P in Bengaluru; Editing by Shailesh Kuber and Shounak Dasgupta