TORONTO, May 04, 2005 (BUSINESS WIRE) -- SunOpta Inc. (SunOpta or the Company) (STKL) (CA:SOY) today announced results for the three months ended March 31, 2005. All amounts are expressed in U.S. dollars.
The Company achieved record revenues and earnings for the three months ended March 31, 2005, realizing its 30th consecutive quarter of record revenue growth compared to the same quarter in the previous year. Revenues in the quarter increased by 38% to $86,223,000 as compared to $62,502,000 in the first quarter of the prior year, led by a 41% increase in revenues within the Company's vertically integrated natural and organic food operations. The Company's overall revenue growth of 38% includes an internal growth rate of 12.8% and growth via acquisitions of 25.2%.
Net earnings for the first quarter increased by 253% to a record $6,605,000 or $0.12 per diluted common share compared to $1,870,000 or $0.03 per diluted common share in the first quarter of the prior year. Net earnings in the quarter included a net unusual gain of $0.08 per diluted common share, consisting primarily of the recognition of a dilution gain on the sale of a 29.6% interest in the Company's subsidiary Opta Minerals Inc. through the previously announced initial public offering. Excluding the net unusual gain, operating earnings were $0.04 per diluted common share.
The Company's Grains & Soy Products Group improved significantly over the first quarter of 2004, led by strong growth in its sunflower operations which generated record revenues and gross profits. Although there is an overall shortage of sunflower seeds in North America, the Company anticipates being able to meet all of its requirements in 2005, leading to continued strong financial results in the coming quarters.
The results of the Packaged Products Group in the first quarter improved significantly over the prior year, benefiting from the recent capital improvements and strong growth in new business in aseptically packaged products, including soy, rice and tea beverages.
The SunOpta Ingredients Group experienced reduced volume and margins in its oat fiber operations as a result of the decline in the low-carb market and increase in competition. The Company has taken actions to counteract these factors, including the addition of organic fibers, expansion into new markets and aggressive pursuit of international markets. These measures are expected to have a positive financial impact in the remainder of the year.
The Canadian Food Distribution Group continued its aggressive growth and consolidation plan, however, profits fell short of expectations as the Group encountered a significant shortage of fresh product supply from California, resulting from local weather issues, including one of the rainiest seasons on record. Fresh product supplies have now been reestablished.
Jeremy Kendall, Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of SunOpta stated that "We are very pleased with our first quarter results, and particularly with the momentum that is evident in our business."
SunOpta Inc. is an operator of high-growth ethical businesses, focusing on integrated business models in the natural and organic food markets. For the last six consecutive years, SunOpta was included in Profit magazine's 'Profit 100' list of the 100 fastest growing companies in Canada. The Company has three business units: the SunOpta Food Group, which specializes in sourcing, processing and distribution of natural and organic food products integrated from seed through packaged products; the Opta Minerals Group, a producer, distributor, and recycler of environmentally friendly industrial materials; and the StakeTech Steam Explosion Group which engineers and markets proprietary steam explosion technology systems for the pulp, bio-fuel and food processing industries. Each of these business units has proprietary products and services that give it a solid competitive advantage in its sector.
Note: This news release may contain forward-looking information. Actual future results may differ materially. The risks, uncertainties, and other factors that could influence actual results are described in the Company's annual report to shareholders and in SEC filings. The attached consolidated balance sheet and consolidated statement of earnings are unaudited. The information provided here should be considered in conjunction with the other information included within various SEC documents including Form 10Q reports filed during 2004 and Form 10K report filed March 16, 2005.