(Nov. 3) Third-quarter profits slipped by 36% at Performance Food Group Co., thanks in part to costs brought on by Hurricane Katrina and the recent sale of the firm’s fresh-cut produce unit.

Richmond, Va.-based Performance, the third-largest broadline foodservice distributor in the U.S., said Nov. 1 its net income for the third quarter was $11.4 million, or 27 cents per share, compared to $17.8 million, or 37 cents a share, during the same period in 2004. The company said the fallout from Hurricane Katrina in late August trimmed pretax results by $2.4 million, or 3 cents per share.

The quarterly statement did not reflect the company’s $855 million sale of Performance’s fresh-cut produce business, Salinas-Calif.-based Fresh Express Inc., to Cincinnati-based Chiquita Brands International. That deal closed June 28 at the end of the second quarter. The report did not show any revenues in that area, because Fresh Express was not under Performance management during the period.

Profit from continuing operations was $11.9 million, or 28 cents a share, compared to $10.8 million, or 23 cents per share, a year earlier. Sales went up 7% to $1.4 billion, up from $1.31 billion at the same time in 2004.

“The sale of Fresh Express also eliminated (Performance’s) entire debt load, which gives management ample opportunity to accelerate growth through prudent acquisitions,” Eric Larson, senior analyst with Minneapolis-based Piper Jaffray & Co., said in a research note.

“We achieved solid internal sales and net earnings growth during the third quarter, despite the impact of Hurricane Katrina,” Bob Sledd, Performance’s chairman and chief executive officer, said in a news release.

The effects of the storm likely would affect fourth-quarter earnings to some degree, Sledd noted.