(Feb. 23) Chiquita Brands International Inc., Cincinnati, on Feb. 17 reported fourth-quarter net income of $8 million, or $0.19 per share.

The company had a net loss of $26 million, or $0.66 per share, in the fourth quarter of 2002. In a company news release, Chiquita said net sales for the recent quarter were $686 million, up $323 million from the fourth quarter of the previous year.

Atlanta AG, a German fresh produce distributor acquired by Chiquita in March 2003, accounted for $260 million of the increase. The remainder resulted from increased sales volume of bananas, pineapples, avocados and melons, and favorable European exchange rates.

“Chiquita had its best fourth quarter in five years as the company continued to cut costs and benefit from a strong euro,” Fernando Aguirre, president and chief executive, said in a news release.

Fourth-quarter 2003 net sales for the company’s banana segment, which includes bananas marketed by Atlanta, rose 25% to $399 million.