Banana pricing âwas tremendously weak in Europe and Asia throughout the year,â Abu-Ghazaleh said during the call, which followed the release of quarterly results. âIâm very confident in our future. Iâm very optimistic for 2011.â
Net sales for Fresh Del Monteâs banana business rose 2.5% to $395.3 million during the three months ending Dec. 31. But the business posted a loss of $10.7 million, compared with a gross profit of $3.7 million a year earlier. Bananas accounted for 44% of Fresh Del Monteâs total sales last year.
Total sales fell 6.4% during the fourth quarter, to $816.7 million, Fresh Del Monte reported.
Flooding in Guatemala and an earthquake in Chile forced Fresh Del Monte to write off inventory, the company said, while slumping pineapple and melon sales also contributed to losses. Fresh Del Monteâs cutbacks included halting pineapple production in Brazil last year.
Fresh Del Monteâs gold pineapple sales fell 12% during the quarter, to $121.4 million, as volume dropped 16%, the company said. Melon sales plunged 58%, to $29.1 million, on a 57% volume decline.
The $9.6 million quarterly loss compares to net income of $28.2 million during the fourth quarter of 2009. For all of 2010, Fresh Del Monteâs profit tumbled to 57%, to $62.2 million, even as sales rose 7.3%, to $1.62 billion.
Fresh Del Monteâs results fell short of analystsâ expectations, sending the companyâs shares lower. In midday trading March 1, the companyâs shares fell $1.05, or 3.7%, to $27.53. The stock is still up about 10% this year.
Chiquita is scheduled to report quarterly results March 2 after the market closes.