Dole Food Co., Westlake Village, Calif., reported stronger earnings during its third-quarter financial report released Nov. 19, by paying down debts and growth in cash flow.

In first financial report since owner David Murdoch took the company public in October, Dole reported its adjusted earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortization increased 18% to $85 million from $71 million. Proceeds from its October initial public offering were $415 million, which will be used to pay down debt. The company had reduced its total debt by $880 million, with more than $1 billion still owed. But total net revenue fell to $1.9 billion, down from $2.2 billion from the same time last year.

“We are extremely pleased to report many positive developed we’ve been able to achieve over the last couple of months,” said David DeLorenzo, Dole chief executive officer.

Dole saw its third-quarter revenue fall 14% to $1.9 billion, with fresh fruit revenues down $146 million or 10%, and third quarter banana sales down 7% due to lower global volumes. Joseph Tesoriero, Dole’s chief financial officer, said revenues for the fresh fruit segment overall were down 17% to $1.3 billion, and its operating losses for the quarter were $53 million.

For its fresh vegetable business, revenue also fell from $328 million for the third quarter to 2008, to $299 million in the third quarter 2009, due to lower volumes and lower prices throughout the summer. Revenue was also down 5% for its packaged foods division to $310 million.

DeLorenzo said Dole will finish rolling out its nationwide campaign for its new bagged salads by the end of the year and doesn’t expect to see any growth in salad sales until 2010. Another reduction in cost next year may come in lower European banana tariffs, DeLorenzo said, which would save Dole $15 million.

Dole sees stronger earnings for third quarter