Saudi-based Almarai cites higher sales for boost to profits in the first three months of 2015
Saudi Arabia's Almarai, the Gulf's largest dairy firm, said on Monday it expected to continue its profit growth in coming quarters after reporting a 12 percent rise in first-quarter net profit on higher sales.
The company made a profit of 306.5 million riyals ($81.7 million) in the three months to March 31, up from 273.6 million riyals in the year-earlier period, it said in a statement.
The profit was above a forecast from AlJazira Capital but below one from NCB Capital. They had expected the dairy firm to make a net profit of 297.5 million riyals and 323 million riyals respectively.
Its earnings were boosted by an 11.7 percent year-on-year increase in first-quarter sales, which rose to 3.04 billion riyals helped by strong growth in its poultry and dairy and juice segments.
"Barring unforeseen events, the company should continue its profitable growth for the next quarters," Almarai said in the earnings statement.
The firm said it spent 969.4 million riyals in the first quarter on expanding its business, including improving its production capabilities, distribution, and the number of places it operates. It did not provide a comparative figure.
Food companies in the kingdom are attracting significant interest from investors, which see the sector as a way to tap into the growing wealth of a young local population.
Bank of America-Merrill Lynch said in an April 2 note Almarai was strongly placed to benefit from the higher growth rates in the healthy foods category in the Middle East and North Africa region, highlighting it as one of its two top picks in the health and wellbeing sector.
The company said on March 26 it had received a 250 million riyal payment from an insurer in compensation for a fire at one of its bakeries, which would be booked in its first-quarter earnings.
It did not state in Monday's earnings statement if the payment had been booked.
Almarai in February hired a new chief executive after the previous CEO resigned to become Saudi Arabia's agriculture minister.