June 9, 2009 / 4:49 PM / 9 years ago

UPDATE 2-Saputo profit drops as cheese prices fall

* Q4 EPS C$0.33 vs average forecast C$0.32

* Revenue ahead 15 percent at C$1.46 billion

* Shares up 0.7 percent at C$21.83 (Adds analyst’s comments)

TORONTO, June 9 (Reuters) - Dairy products company Saputo Inc (SAP.TO) said on Tuesday its quarterly profit fell 8 percent as cheese prices fell and production costs rose.

Montreal-based Saputo, Canada’s biggest cheese maker, said it earned C$69.2 million ($62.7 million), or 33 Canadian cents a share, for its fourth quarter, ended March 31. That was down from C$75.2 million, or 36 Canadian cents a share, from a year earlier.

Revenue rose 15 percent to C$1.46 billion, mainly due to acquisitions.

Analysts had expected average earnings of 32 Canadian cents a share before items, and revenue of C$1.45 billion, according to Reuters Estimates.

The shares, which have dropped about 25 percent in the past year on lower cheese prices, were up 0.7 percent at C$21.83.

Brian Yarbrough, an analyst at Edward Jones in St. Louis, Missouri, said the company’s revenue growth was driven by two key dairy acquisitions, including the late 2008 purchase of Neilson Dairy from Weston Foods.

But the revenue growth was not enough to prevent a drop in earnings as European and U.S. profits slipped due to lower cheese prices and lower prices for whey, which Saputo sells to other producers.

“Obviously when you look at cheese prices and milk prices in the United States, they have dropped almost half in the past year, so obviously that puts pressure on their ability to absorb fixed costs in their plants,” Yarbrough said.

Cheese prices have almost halved in the past year, along with most commodities, as the effects of the weakening global economy took effect.

$1=$1.10 Canadian Reporting by Scott Anderson; editing by Peter Galloway

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