Sales for US food ingredients company Corn Products International were on target for the first quarter of 2003 ended 31 March 2003 with the company announcing on Tuesday that sales had risen 23 per cent, lifting earnings and increasing the operating income.
An improvement in earnings in Asia/Africa and South America, and in particular in North America, helped boost net sales that reached $479 million (€437m), up from $432 million for the same period in 2002. Operating income also rose from $32 million in 2002 to $36 million in 2003.
"Our business performance met our target for first quarter 2003 as sales and operating income grew in each of our regions," said Sam Scott, chairman, president and chief executive officer. "Excluding the aforementioned after-tax gain from the prior year results, diluted earnings per share for the current period increased significantly from last year's disappointing first quarter."
The company reports that while strong sales volume growth - 6 per cent - in Canada and the US had a significant impact on net sales and operating income for North America, in Mexico local currency weakness and the tax on beverages sweetened with high fructose corn syrup (HFCS) continued to depress earnings in that country.
In South America, net sales rose from $98 million to $105 million, reflecting an improvement in price/product mix throughout the region, in particular strong volume growth in the Southern Cone area of South America.
Turning to Asia and Africa, the company reports that strong volume growth of 11 per cent, thanks to organic growth in the region, the start-up of the company's Thailand operation and stronger Asian currencies, helped boost net sales from $58 million to $67 million.
Looking ahead to the rest of 2003, Corn Products International expects that full-year diluted earnings per share will increase in the range of 8 to 12 per cent over the $1.77 per diluted share reported in 2002. The company also anticipates that much of the balance of EPS improvement will occur late in the year. This excludes any earnings improvement that could result from the potential repeal of the tax on beverages sweetened with HFCS in Mexico.