November 18, 2008 / 2:13 PM / in 10 years

UPDATE 2-George Weston earnings little changed

* Earnings per share C$1.28 versus C$1.25

* Revenue C$10.6 billion versus C$10.2 billion

* Shares rise more than 2 percent

TORONTO, Nov 18 (Reuters) - Quarterly profit at George Weston Ltd (WN.TO) was little changed, the company said on Tuesday, as hedging and restructuring charges offset slightly higher sales.

George Weston, North America’s largest baked goods maker, earned C$179 million ($146 million), or C$1.28 a share, in its third quarter ended Oct. 4, compared with a profit of C$179 million, or C$1.25, in the year-earlier period.

Analysts had expected, on average, earnings of C$1.34 a share before exceptions, according to data compiled by Reuters Estimates.

The company took a charge of 31 Canadian cents a share during the quarter related to the hedging of commodity prices at Weston Foods. It also said its earnings were hurt by 1 Canadian cent a share related to restructuring at both Weston Foods and Loblaw grocery-store divisions.

Sales for the quarter rose 4.4 percent, to C$10.6 billion from C$10.2 billion in the year-prior period. The company said revenues benefited from price increases and changes in product mix at its Weston Foods division, while the shift of the Canadian Thanksgiving holiday into the company’s fourth quarter held back third-quarter sales growth at its Loblaw stores.

Operating income was C$413 million, up 9.8 percent from C$376 million.

Operating income at Weston Foods fell 18.8 percent to C$104 million from C$128 million. Operating income at Loblaw grew 24.6 percent to C$309 million from C$248 million.

Last week, Loblaw, the country’s largest supermarket chain, separately said earnings rose 32 percent to C$155 million, or 56 Canadian cents a share.

Loblaw warned that a slowing economy could its hurt its performance for the rest of the year.

Shares of George Weston were up C$1.36, or 2.16 percent, to C$64.24 early in the day on the Toronto Stock Exchange. ($1=$1.23 Canadian) (Reporting by John McCrank; Editing by Frank McGurty)

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