* EPS C$0.56 vs year-earlier C$1.29
* Includes C$0.58 charge on foreign exchange
* Revenue drops 1 pct to C$9.78 bln
* Shares up 0.7 pct at C$59.50 (Adds background and analyst’s comments)
TORONTO, Nov 24 (Reuters) - North American food processor George Weston Ltd (WN.TO) said on Tuesday its quarterly profit dropped 52 percent, hurt by foreign exchange charges.
The company, which owns No. 1 Canadian supermarket chain Loblaw Co (L.TO), earned C$86 million ($81.3 million), or 56 Canadian cents a share, for its third quarter, down from C$180 million, or C$1.29 a share, for the same period a year earlier.
The Toronto-based company said the latest quarter included a charge of 58 Canadian cents a share related to unrealized foreign exchange losses on a portion of its U.S. denominated cash and short-term investments.
Excluding the items, the company earned C$1.03 a share.
Revenue for the quarter was C$9.78 billion, down 1 percent from C$9.89 billion in the year-before quarter.
Analysts on average were expecting earnings per share of 97 Canadian cents and revenue of C$9.90 billion, according to Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S.
“On the surface (the results) look very, very good,” said Robert Gibson, head of research at Octagon Capital. “It’s too bad there’s all this noise.”
The company’s shares, which have gained 7.3 percent since the start of the year largely on the back of the strong performance from Loblaw, were up 0.7 percent, at C$59.50.
But Gibson said the shares will remain under pressure until the company, which sits on a big war chest of funds from a number of divestitures over the past few years, outlines what it intends to do with the money.
The sale of both its Neilson Dairy division and its U.S. bakery division have boosted the company’s cash holdings to between C$3.5 billion and C$4.0 billion. When combined with Loblaw’s cash, the total rises to between C$5 billion and C$5.5 billion.
The company said on Tuesday that it is still assessing how it will spend that money.
Analysts have a long list of options for the company including taking Loblaw private, making grocery industry acquisitions in Western Canada, and paying a special dividend to shareholders.
“We’ve been waiting and waiting. I think the Street thought this was going to happen a lot sooner,” Gibson said. “You’ve got all this money. They are going to spend it on something, but the Street has no clue what they are going to spend it on.”
$1=$1.06 Canadian Reporting by Scott Anderson; editing by Peter Galloway email@example.com; +1 416 941 8106; Reuters Messaging: firstname.lastname@example.org