June 9, 2010 / 5:24 PM / 8 years ago

UPDATE 1-Saputo profit gets lift from higher cheese prices

* EPS C$0.47 vs analyst forecast C$0.46

* Revenue falls to C$1.38 billion from C$1.46 bln

* To save C$6.5 mln annually from new distribution center

OTTAWA, June 9 (Reuters) - Saputo Inc (SAP.TO) posted a 37 percent jump in quarterly profit on Wednesday, as higher cheese prices and increased efficiency more than offset a drop in revenue at the dairy products company.

Saputo, Canada’s biggest cheese maker, said it earned C$99.1 million ($95.3 million), or 47 Canadian cents a share, in the fourth quarter, ended March 31. That compared with a profit of C$69.2 million, or 33 Canadian cents a share, a year earlier.

Revenue fell 5.2 percent to C$1.38 billion, hurt by a negative currency impact as the Canadian dollar strengthened against the U.S. dollar and other currencies.

Analysts had expected, on average, earnings of 46 Canadian cents a share before items and revenue of C$1.47 billion, according to Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S.

Montreal-based Saputo said that its recently announced plans to consolidate its Toronto distribution center are expected to be completed this autumn and will generate after-tax savings of about C$6.5 million annually.

The company also said it will pursue expansion in fiscal 2011 through both internal growth and acquisitions. It plans to invest in projects to boost capacity in its Canadian specialty cheese facilities.

It will seek volume growth at its diary operations in Argentina, but expects a difficult year in Europe because of higher milk costs.

Acquisition-hungry Saputo bought the Neilson Diary division of George Weston Ltd (WN.TO) for C$465 million in late 2008, gaining its line of milk products, dairy drinks, cream products and nondairy creamers, butter, yogurt and juices.

Earlier that year, it bought Wisconsin-based Alto Diary.

Saputo shares, which are down about 4 percent this year, were off 5 Canadian cents at C$29.35 on the Toronto Stock Exchange early Wednesday afternoon.

$1=$1.04 Canadian Reporting by Susan Taylor; editing by Rob Wilson

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