SunOpta profits shaken after troubled year

By Sarah Hills

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags: Sunopta, Organic food

Profits have plunged for the Canadian natural ingredients company SunOpta which has just announced its delayed 2007 financial results after over-valuation of its berry stocks.

SunOpta’s earnings were $407,000, or $0.01 per share, for the year ending December 31, 2007, compared to nearly $11m, or $0.19 per share, in 2006.

However, at the same time there was strong growth as SunOpta revenues increased 34.5 percent to $804m in 2007, compared to revenues of $598m the previous year.

The company said in a statement that “earnings for the year were impacted by certain one-time issues”​.

SunOpta had hefty pre-tax write-downs after it over-valued its berry stocks and had delayed filing its 2007 results pending the outcome of an internal investigation.

The company is also the subject of class action lawsuits, including one action filed by New York-based law firm Murray, Frank & Sailer. This alleges that stockholders in SunOpta who bought their shares during the period August 8, 2007 through January 25, 2008, were misled by the company about its financial performance.

It claims that SunOpta and certain of its officers and directors “failed to disclose that SunOpta lacked adequate internal controls, improperly overstated SunOpta's earnings… and materially misrepresented that SunOpta's financial results were prepared in accordance with Generally Accepted Accounting Principles".

Another class action, filed on February 13 by Kaplan Fox & Kilsheimer, also of New York, adds that "the company shocked investors when it reported its anticipated financial results for 2007, disclosing for the first time that it expected to incur material write-downs and provisions in the range of $12m to $14m”.

It said the company attributed this to write-downs of inventory within the SunOpta fruit group's berry operations, as well as difficulties in collecting for services and equipment provided to a customer of the SunOpta bioprocess group.

SunOpta believes the class action claims “are without merit and intends to vigorously defend itself”.

Revenue breakdown

SunOpta Inc has three business units including the SunOpta Food Group, which specializes in sourcing, processing and distribution of natural and organic food and natural health products integrated from seed through packaged products.

Increased revenues were in large part aided by the SunOpta Food Group, which showed an increase in fiscal 2007 revenues to $727m from $530m in 2006, or 37.1 percent.

Opta Minerals Inc is a producer, distributor, and recycler of environmentally friendly industrial materials. Its revenues increased 17.3 percent from 2006 to 2007, to $75m.

However SunOpta BioProcess Inc, which engineers and markets proprietary steam explosion technology systems for the bio-fuel, pulp and food processing industries, saw revenues decline 44.5 percent to $1.8m.

The company also provided restated quarterly financial results for the quarters ended March 31, 2007, June 30, 2007 and September 30, 2007.

Last year SunOpta extended its natural and healthy foods and ingredients businesses with deals in Mexico, Chile, Argentina and the Netherlands, among others.

In March is clinched a deal to begin construction of a new organic and natural oil refinery in Colorado in a joint venture with Colorado Mills.

And in April, SunOpta completed the acquisition of Dutch organic ingredients company, Tradin Organic Agriculture, following delays due to its financial issues.

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