Pilgrim's Pride re-opening three plants

by Bryan Salvage
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PITTSBURG, TEXAS – Although Pilgrim's Pride Corporation announced earlier today a net loss of $45.5 million, or $0.21 per diluted share, on net sales of $1.6 billion for the first quarter ended March 28, it also had some good news to share. It plans to re-open its chicken processing plant in Douglas, Ga., by January 2011 as well as two other idled facilities – one by mid-2011 and the other by spring 2012.

As a result, the re-opening of these three plants will result in a production increase of 10%, or approximately 3.5 million birds per week. "Pilgrim's Pride and the industry have taken out significant production capacity over the past two years,” said Don Jackson, Pilgrim's Pride president and chief executive. “We fully believe that with the strengthening economy and improving fundamentals, consumer demand for chicken is increasing. By re-opening these facilities, Pilgrim's Pride will be uniquely positioned to fulfill our customers' needs.”

For the comparable quarter a year earlier, the company reported a net loss of $58.8 million, or $0.79 per share, on total sales of nearly $1.7 billion.

Factors contributing to the most recent quarterly loss included restructuring and reorganization costs; a delay in the addition of new further-processed volume, which forced the company to sell commodity meat at lower prices; a loss of approximately $11 million related to grain hedges, of which $6 million was mark-to-market on open positions; and lower-than-anticipated market prices for dark meat.

Adjusted E.B.I.T.D.A., which excludes restructuring and reorganization charges, was a positive $59.5 million for the first quarter of fiscal 2010.

"While I am encouraged by the progress we have made in several areas of our business, our overall performance in the first quarter of fiscal 2010 was below our expectations," Mr. Jackson said.

He added the further-processed volume should be onboard before the end of June. "Our single largest opportunity to create value is through improved product mix both in retail and foodservice," he said. "At the same time, we must continue to focus on operating more efficiently. We are making good progress in all of these areas, and I am confident that our financial results in the second quarter will show significant improvement. Based on preliminary results, we were profitable for the month of April."

Mr. Jackson is optimistic about industry fundamentals heading into the summer. "Although production is slightly higher than a year ago, supplies remain fairly tight,” he said. “Feed costs appear to have stabilized and there are growing signs that the economy is improving. With many retailers and foodservice operators planning to feature chicken in the months ahead, demand is strengthening.”

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