Maple Leaf Foods Inc. reported its financial results for the first quarter ended March 31, 2011. First quarter highlights include:

    -   Adjusted Operating Earnings increased 61% to $50.7 million

    -   Value creation initiatives on track and contributing to margin growth

    -   Net earnings in the quarter decreased 47% to $10.5 million, including $26.1 million in pre-tax restructuring costs

    -   Adjusted Earnings per Share increased to $0.18 from $0.07 last year

"Maple Leaf Foods delivered our eighth consecutive quarter of improved results, with a significant increase in profitability in our fresh and prepared meats businesses." said Michael H. McCain, president and CEO. "We are very pleased with the progress on both short and long-term initiatives. Our value creation plan is on track and contributed to earnings in the quarter. While the most significant challenge has been rising raw material costs, we are passing on price increases to protect our margins. Overall, this was another strong quarter of performance."

Sales for the first quarter of 2011 decreased 4% to $1,147.9 million compared to $1,191.5 million last year, primarily due to business divestitures. Excluding the effect of divestitures, and the impact of a stronger Canadian dollar, sales increased by 4%. Adjusted Operating Earnings increased to $50.7 million compared to $31.5 million last year primarily due to improved performance in the Protein Group.

Sales in the Agribusiness Group for the first quarter increased 37% to $57.3 million from $41.8 million in the first quarter last year. Of this increase, approximately 25% was due to higher sales values, the remainder was related to higher volumes in the by-product recycling business.

Hog prices have increased 18% since last year and outpaced the Company's net cost of grain, contributing to higher earnings. The contribution from by-products recycling operations also increased due to higher biodiesel sales volumes, eco-energy credits that were not received in the first quarter of 2010, and operational improvements. The benefit of higher market prices in the rendering business was mostly offset by higher raw material costs.

Source: Maple Leaf Foods Inc.