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Press release from CNW Group

George Weston Limited - 2012 First Quarter Results(1).

Tuesday, May 08, 2012

George Weston Limited - 2012 First Quarter Results(1).08:00 EDT Tuesday, May 08, 2012TORONTO, May 8, 2012 /CNW/ - George Weston Limited (TSX: WN) ("GWL") and its subsidiaries (collectively the "Company") today is announcing its unaudited results for the 12 weeks ended March 24, 2012.The Company's Q1 2012 Quarterly Report to Shareholders, including the Company's unaudited interim period condensed consolidated financial statements and Management's Discussion and Analysis ("MD&A") for the 12 weeks ended March 24, 2012, is available in the Investor Centre section of the Company's website at www.weston.ca and has been filed with the System for Electronic Document Analysis and Retrieval ("SEDAR") and will be available at www.sedar.com.CONSOLIDATED RESULTS OF OPERATIONSGeorge Weston Limited's first quarter 2012 adjusted basic net earnings per common share(2) were $0.89 compared to $1.07 in the same period in 2011, a decrease of $0.18. The decrease was primarily attributable to a decline in the operating performance of Loblaw Companies Limited ("Loblaw"), partially offset by a decline in the effective income tax rate. The decline in the operating performance of Loblaw was primarily due to increased transportation costs and higher input costs that were not entirely passed on to the consumer including the incremental investment related to Loblaw's customer proposition, a charge related to the transition of certain Ontario conventional stores to the more cost effective and efficient operating terms of collective agreements ratified in the third quarter of 2010 and incremental costs related to investments in information technology ("IT") and supply chain(3).(unaudited)                  ($ millions except where otherwise indicated)          12 Weeks Ended As at or for the periods ended as indicated         Mar. 24, 2012      Mar. 26, 2011      ChangeSales            $ 7,224      $ 7,148      1.1%Operating income            $ 274      $ 303      (9.6)%Adjusted operating income(2)            $ 311      $ 380      (18.2)%Adjusted operating margin(2)            4.3%      5.3%       Net interest expense and other financing charges      $ 44      $ 66      (33.3)%Income taxes      $ 59      $ 72      (18.1)%Net earnings attributable to shareholders of the Company      $ 124      $ 105      18.1%Net earnings      $ 171      $ 165      3.6%Basic net earnings per common share ($)      $ 0.89      $ 0.74      20.3%Adjusted basic net earnings per common share(2) ($)      $ 0.89      $ 1.07      (16.8)%Adjusted EBITDA(2)            $ 495      $ 546      (9.3)%Adjusted EBITDA margin(2)            6.9%      7.6%                     The Company's basic net earnings per common share were $0.89 compared to $0.74 in the same period in 2011, an increase of $0.15, or 20.3%. Adjusted basic net earnings per common share(2) declined $0.18, or 16.8%, and excluded the year-over-year favourable impact of certain items, primarily the fair value adjustment of the forward sale agreement for 9.6 million Loblaw common shares, restructuring and other charges and the fair value adjustment of commodity derivatives at Weston Foods.The Company uses non-GAAP financial measures. See the "Non-GAAP Financial Measures" section of this News Release for more information on these non-GAAP financial measures.OPERATING SEGMENTSWeston Foods(unaudited)       12 Weeks Ended($ millions)   Mar. 24, 2012 Mar. 26, 2011Sales  $ 425 $ 410Operating income  $ 60 $ 19Adjusted operating income(2)  $ 59 $ 57Adjusted operating margin(2)   13.9%  13.9%Adjusted EBITDA(2)  $ 73 $ 71Adjusted EBITDA margin(2)   17.2%  17.3%        Weston Foods sales in the first quarter of 2012 increased by 3.7% to $425 million compared to same period in 2011. Foreign currency translation positively impacted sales by approximately 0.8%. Excluding this impact, sales increased 2.9% due to the positive impact of higher pricing across key product categories of 4.2%, partially offset by a decrease in volumes of 1.3% when compared to the same period in 2011.Weston Foods operating income in the first quarter of 2012 was $60 million compared to $19 million in the same period in 2011. The change in restructuring and other charges, the fair value adjustment of commodity derivatives and share-based compensation net of equity derivatives had a year-over-year favourable impact of $39 million on Weston Foods operating income.Weston Foods adjusted operating income(2) was $59 million in the first quarter of 2012 compared to $57 million in the same period in 2011, an increase of $2 million, or 3.5%. Weston Foods adjusted operating margin(2) remained unchanged at 13.9% in the first quarters of both 2012 and 2011. Adjusted operating income(2) in the first quarter of 2012 was positively impacted by higher pricing in key product categories and the benefits realized from productivity improvements and other cost reduction initiatives, which were partially offset by higher commodity and fuel costs and lower sales volumes in the first quarter of 2012 compared to the same period in 2011.Loblaw (unaudited)       12 Weeks Ended($ millions)   Mar. 24, 2012  Mar. 26, 2011Sales  $ 6,937 $ 6,872Operating income  $ 237 $ 301Adjusted operating income(2)   $ 252 $ 323Adjusted operating margin(2)   3.6%  4.7%Adjusted EBITDA(2)  $ 422 $ 475Adjusted EBITDA margin(2)   6.1%  6.9%        In the first quarter of 2012, Loblaw executed on its plan. Despite a decline in year-over-year operating income, store conditions improved, Loblaw made steady progress on its IT implementation and took a disciplined approach to improving its customer proposition.Loblaw sales in the first quarter of 2012 increased by 0.9% to $6,937 million compared to the same period in 2011. Retail segment sales increased by 0.8% and same-store sales declined by 0.7% (2011 - 0.1%), both negatively impacted by the effect of one less day of store operations estimated to be between 0.8% to 1.0%. Sales in food and drugstore were flat, gas bar sales growth was strong, sales in general merchandise, excluding apparel, were flat and sales growth in apparel was strong. Loblaw experienced modest average quarterly internal food price inflation during the first quarters of 2012 and 2011, which was lower than the average quarterly national food price inflation of 3.7% (2011 - 2.5%) as measured by "The Consumer Price Index for Food Purchased from Stores". Since the end of the first quarter of 2011, Loblaw opened 25 corporate and franchise stores and closed five corporate and franchise stores, resulting in a net increase of 0.6 million square feet, or 1.2%. Loblaw sales in the first quarter of 2012 were also positively impacted by an increase in revenue from its Financial Services segment, which includes President's Choice Bank ("PC Bank"), a subsidiary of Loblaw. The increase in Financial Services segment revenue was primarily driven by higher interchange fee income, interest income and PC Telecom revenues when compared to the same period in 2011.Loblaw operating income in the first quarter of 2012 decreased by 21.3% to $237 million from $301 million in the same period in 2011.Loblaw adjusted operating income(2) was $252 million in the first quarter of 2012 compared to $323 million in the same period in 2011. Loblaw adjusted operating margin(2) was 3.6% compared to 4.7% in the same period in 2011. The decreases in adjusted operating income(2) and adjusted operating margin(2) were attributable to increased transportation costs and higher input costs outpacing internal food price inflation, changes in the value of Loblaw's investments in its franchise business, a charge related to the transition of certain Ontario conventional stores to the more cost effective and efficient operating terms of collective agreements ratified in the third quarter of 2010 and incremental costs related to investments in IT and supply chain. These decreases were partially offset by other operating cost efficiencies and improved shrink. Higher input costs that were not entirely passed on to the consumer included an estimated $10 million incremental investment in Loblaw's customer proposition. Loblaw's adjusted operating income(2) was also negatively impacted by the continued investment in the growth of its Financial Services segment, which includes PC Bank.NET INTEREST EXPENSE AND OTHER FINANCING CHARGES In the first quarter of 2012, net interest expense and other financing charges decreased by $22 million to $44 million compared to the same period in 2011. The decrease was due to an increase of $22 million in non-cash income related to the fair value adjustment of the forward sale agreement for 9.6 million Loblaw common shares. Excluding this impact, net interest expense and other financing charges were flat compared to the same period in 2011.INCOME TAXESIn the first quarter of 2012, income tax expense was $59 million compared to $72 million in the same period in 2011. The effective income tax rate decreased to 25.7% in the first quarter of 2012 compared to 30.4% in the same period in 2011. The decrease was primarily due to a decrease in income tax expense related to certain prior year income tax matters, reductions in the federal and Ontario statutory income tax rates and a reduction in non-deductible amounts.OUTLOOK(1)This outlook reflects the underlying operating performance of the Company's operating segments as discussed below.For the full year 2012, Weston Foods expects to deliver sales in line with 2011 as market conditions are expected to remain challenging. Higher commodity and input costs experienced in the first quarter are expected to continue in the second quarter of 2012, putting increased pressure on operating margins when compared to the same periods in 2011. Weston Foods will continue its efforts to reduce costs through improved efficiencies and ongoing cost reduction initiatives in an effort to achieve full year operating margins in line with those in 2011.Loblaw is focused on consistent execution to exceed customer expectations with the right assortment, improved in-store experience and competitive prices across all banners. For the full year 2012, Loblaw estimates operating income to be down year-over-year, with more pressure in the first half of the year, as it does not expect its operations to cover the incremental costs related to investments in IT and supply chain and the ongoing investments in its customer proposition.For the remainder of 2012, George Weston Limited anticipates adjusted basic net earnings per common share(2) to be down year-over-year, primarily due to the impact of the incremental costs at Loblaw.(1)     This News Release contains forward-looking information. See Forward-Looking Statements for a discussion of material factors that could cause actual results to differ materially from the conclusions, forecasts and projections herein and of the material factors and assumptions that were applied in presenting the conclusions, forecasts and projections presented herein. This News Release must be read in conjunction with George Weston Limited's filings with securities regulators made from time to time, all of which can be found at www.weston.ca and www.sedar.com.(2)     See non-GAAP financial measures.(3)     Incremental costs related to investments in IT and supply chain include IT costs, depreciation and amortization and supply chain project costs.NON-GAAP FINANCIAL MEASURESIn this News Release the Company uses the following non-GAAP financial measures: adjusted operating income and adjusted operating margin, adjusted EBITDA and adjusted EBITDA margin and adjusted basic net earnings per common share. The Company believes these non-GAAP financial measures provide useful information to both management and investors in measuring the financial performance of the Company for the reasons outlined below.Certain expenses and income that must be recognized under GAAP are not necessarily reflective of the Company's underlying operating performance. For this reason, management uses certain non-GAAP financial measures to exclude the impact of these items when analyzing consolidated and segment underlying operating performance. These non-GAAP financial measures are also helpful in assessing underlying operating performance on a consistent basis.From time to time, the Company may exclude additional items if it believes doing so would result in a more effective analysis of underlying operating performance. The exclusion of certain items does not imply that they are non-recurring. Loblaw does not report its results of operations on an adjusted basis, however the Company excludes the impact of certain Loblaw items, as applicable, when reporting its consolidated and segment results.These non-GAAP financial measures do not have a standardized meaning prescribed by GAAP and therefore they may not be comparable to similarly titled measures presented by other publicly traded companies, and they should not be construed as an alternative to other financial measures determined in accordance with GAAP.Adjusted Operating Income and Adjusted EBITDAThe Company believes adjusted operating income is useful in assessing the Company's underlying operating performance and in making decisions regarding the ongoing operations of its business. The Company believes adjusted EBITDA is also useful in assessing the underlying operating performance of the Company's ongoing operations and in assessing the Company's ability to generate cash flows to fund its cash requirements, including its capital investment program.The following tables reconcile adjusted operating income and adjusted EBITDA to GAAP net earnings attributable to shareholders of the Company reported for the periods ended as indicated.       12 Weeks Ended    Mar. 24,2012     Mar. 26, 2011 (unaudited)($ millions) WestonFoods  Loblaw  Other(1)   Consolidated  WestonFoods   Loblaw  Other(1)    Consolidated Net earnings attributable to shareholders of the Company         $ 124          $ 105Add impact of the following:                       Non-controlling interests          47           60Income taxes            59           72Net interest expense and other financing charges          44           66Operating income (loss)$60 $237 $ (23) $ 274 $ 19 $ 301 $ (17) $ 303Add (deduct) impact of the following:                       Restructuring and other charges(2) 1  3     4  6  29     35Fair value adjustment of commodity derivatives at Weston Foods (3)           (3)  16        16Share-based compensation net of equity derivatives 1  12     13  16  (7)     9Foreign currency translation losses       23  23        17  17Adjusted operating income$ 59 $ 252 $     $ 311 $ 57 $ 323 $   $ 380Depreciation and amortization 14  170     184  14  152           166Adjusted EBITDA$ 73 $ 422 $     $ 495 $ 71 $ 475 $   $ 546(1)     Operating income in the first quarter of 2012 included a loss of $23 million (2011 - $17 million) related to the effect of foreign currency translation on a portion of the U.S. dollar denominated cash and short term investments held by foreign operations.(2)    Other charges at Loblaw in the first quarter of 2012 included $3 million (2011 - $21 million) related to changes in Loblaw's distribution network. In the first quarter of 2011, a charge of $8 million was also recorded related to an internal realignment of Loblaw's business centered around its two primary store formats, conventional and discount. First quarter year-over-year changes in the following items influenced operating income:Restructuring and other charges  The Company continuously evaluates strategic and cost reduction initiatives related to its store infrastructure, manufacturing assets, distribution networks and administrative infrastructure with the objective of ensuring a low cost operating structure. Restructuring activities related to these initiatives are ongoing. The details of restructuring and other charges are included in the "Reportable Operating Segments" section of the MD&A included in GWL's Q1 2012 Quarterly Report to Shareholders.Fair value adjustment of commodity derivatives at Weston Foods  Weston Foods is exposed to commodity price fluctuations primarily as a result of purchases of certain raw materials, fuels and utilities. In accordance with the Company's risk management strategy, Weston Foods enters into commodity derivatives to reduce the impact of price fluctuations in forecasted raw material purchases over a specified period of time. These commodity derivatives are not acquired for trading or speculative purposes. Hedge accounting is not applied to these commodity derivatives and as a result, changes in their fair value, which include realized and unrealized gains and losses related to future purchases of raw materials, are recorded in operating income. In the first quarter of 2012, Weston Foods recorded income of $3 million (2011 - a charge of $16 million) related to the fair value adjustment of exchange traded commodity derivatives. Despite the impact of accounting for these commodity derivatives on the Company's reported results, the derivatives have the economic impact of largely mitigating the associated risks arising from price fluctuations in the underlying commodities during the period that the commodity derivatives are held.Share-based compensation net of equity derivatives  Both GWL and Glenhuron Bank Limited have entered into equity derivatives to partially hedge their exposure to the impact of increases in the value of GWL and Loblaw common shares on share-based compensation cost. The amount of net share-based compensation cost recorded in operating income is mainly dependent upon changes in the value of GWL and Loblaw common shares and the number and vesting of outstanding restricted share units ("RSU") and performance share units ("PSU") relative to the number of common shares underlying the equity derivatives. The Company assesses stock option plan, RSU plan, PSU plan and equity derivative impacts on a net basis and therefore the impact of stock options is also excluded from operating income when management reviews consolidated and segment operating performance. In the first quarter of 2012, a charge of $13 million (2011 - $9 million) was recorded related to share-based compensation net of equity derivatives.Foreign currency translation losses  The Company's consolidated financial statements are expressed in Canadian dollars. A portion of the Company's (excluding Loblaw's) net assets are denominated in U.S. dollars and as a result, the Company is exposed to foreign currency translation gains and losses. The impact of foreign currency translation on a portion of the U.S. dollar denominated net assets, primarily cash and short term investments, held by foreign operations is recorded in operating income. In the first quarter of 2012, foreign currency translation losses of $23 million (2011 - $17 million) were recorded in operating income as a result of the appreciation of the Canadian dollar.Adjusted Basic Net Earnings per Common ShareThe Company believes adjusted basic net earnings per common share is useful in assessing the Company's underlying operating performance and in making decisions regarding the ongoing operations of its business.The following table reconciles adjusted basic net earnings per common share to GAAP basic net earnings per common share reported for the periods ended as indicated.(unaudited)          12 Weeks Ended($)            Mar. 24, 2012        Mar. 26, 2011Basic net earnings per common share     $ 0.89 $ 0.74(Deduct) add impact of the following(1):          Fair value adjustment of the forward sale agreement for 9.6 million Loblaw common shares  (0.25)        (0.12)Restructuring and other charges      0.02        0.13Fair value adjustment of commodity derivatives at Weston Foods  (0.02)        0.09Share-based compensation net of equity derivatives      0.07        0.10Foreign currency translation losses      0.18        0.13Adjusted basic net earnings per common share     $ 0.89 $ 1.07           (1) Net of interest, income taxes and non-controlling interests, as applicable.In addition to the items described in the "Adjusted Operating Income and Adjusted EBITDA" section above, the first quarter year-over-year change in the following item also influenced basic net earnings per common share:Fair value adjustment of the forward sale agreement for 9.6 million Loblaw common shares  The fair value adjustment of the forward sale agreement for 9.6 million Loblaw common shares is non-cash and is included in consolidated net interest expense and other financing charges. The adjustment is determined by changes in the value of the underlying Loblaw shares. At maturity, any cash paid under the forward sale agreement could be offset by the sale of the underlying Loblaw common shares. The first quarter year-over-year increase in income related to the fair value adjustment of the forward sale agreement for 9.6 million Loblaw common shares was $0.13 per common share and was attributable to a greater decrease in the market price of Loblaw common shares in the first quarter of 2012 compared to the same period in 2011.FORWARD-LOOKING STATEMENTS This News Release contains forward-looking statements about the Company's objectives, plans, goals, aspirations, strategies, financial condition, results of operations, cash flows, performance, prospects and opportunities. These forward-looking statements are typically identified by words such as "anticipate", "expect", "believe", "foresee", "could", "estimate", "goal", "intend", "plan", "seek", "strive", "will", "may" and "should" and similar expressions, as they relate to the Company and its management. In this News Release, forward-looking statements include the Company's continued expectations that for the full year 2012:For Weston Foods:sales will be in line with 2011;commodity and input costs in the first half of 2012 will be higher than the comparable period in 2011, putting increased pressure on operating margins in the first half of 2012 when compared to the same period in 2011; andefforts will be made to achieve full year operating margins in line with those in 2011.For Loblaw Companies Limited ("Loblaw"):there will be incremental costs related to investments in information technology ("IT") and supply chain, as well as continued investment in Loblaw's customer proposition; andoperating income will be down year-over-year, with more pressure in the first half of the year, as a result of Loblaw's expectation that its operations will not cover the incremental costs related to the investments in IT and supply chain and its customer proposition.For the Company:adjusted basic net earnings per common share(1) will be down year-over-year.These forward-looking statements are not historical facts but reflect the Company's current expectations concerning future results and events. They also reflect management's current assumptions regarding the risks and uncertainties referred to below and their respective impact on the Company. In addition, the Company's expectation with regard to Weston Foods' operating margins in 2012 is based in part on the assumptions that there will be no significant unanticipated increase in the price of commodities and other input costs that Weston Foods will not be able to offset through pricing, improved efficiencies and ongoing cost reduction initiatives. The Company's expectation with regard to Loblaw's operating income in 2012 is based in part on the assumptions that Loblaw achieves its plan to increase net retail square footage by 1% and there are no unexpected adverse events or costs related to Loblaw's investments in IT and supply chain. The Company's expectation with regard to adjusted basic net earnings per common share(1)in 2012 is based in part on the assumption that interest rates, income tax rates and the Company's ownership interest in Loblaw will be similar to those in 2011.These forward-looking statements are subject to a number of risks and uncertainties that could cause actual results or events to differ materially from current expectations, including, but not limited to:failure to realize sales growth, anticipated cost savings or operating efficiencies from the Company's major initiatives, including investments in the Company's IT systems and the Company's IT systems implementation, or unanticipated results from these initiatives;the inability of the Company's IT infrastructure to support the requirements of the Company's business;unanticipated results associated with the Company's strategic initiatives and the impact of acquisitions or dispositions of businesses on the Company's future revenues and earnings;heightened competition, whether from current competitors or new entrants to the marketplace;changes in economic conditions including the rate of inflation or deflation, changes in interest and foreign currency exchange rates and changes in derivative and commodity prices;public health events;risks associated with product defects, food safety and product handling;failure to achieve desired results in labour negotiations, including the terms of future collective bargaining agreements which could lead to work stoppages;the inability of the Company to manage inventory to minimize the impact of obsolete or excess inventory and to control shrink;failure by the Company to maintain appropriate records to support its compliance with accounting, tax or legal rules, regulations and policies;the availability and increased costs relating to raw materials, ingredients and utilities, including electricity and fuel;failure of the Company's franchised stores to perform as expected;reliance on the performance and retention of third-party service providers including those associated with the Company's supply chain and apparel business;supply and quality control issues with vendors;changes to or failure to comply with laws and regulations affecting the Company and its businesses, including changes to the regulation of generic prescription drug prices and the reduction of reimbursement under public drug benefit plans and the elimination or reduction of professional allowances paid by drug manufacturers;changes in the Company's income, commodity, other tax and regulatory liabilities including changes in tax laws, regulations or future assessments;any requirement of the Company to make contributions to its registered funded defined benefit pension plans or the multi-employer pension plans in which it participates in excess of those currently contemplated;the risk that the Company would experience a financial loss if its counterparties fail to meet their obligations in accordance with the terms and conditions of their contracts with the Company; andthe inability of the Company to collect on its credit card receivables.This is not an exhaustive list of the factors that may affect the Company's forward-looking statements. Other risks and uncertainties not presently known to the Company or that the Company presently believes are not material could also cause actual results or events to differ materially from those expressed in its forward-looking statements. Additional risks and uncertainties are discussed in the Company's materials filed with the Canadian securities regulatory authorities from time to time, including the Enterprise Risks and Risk Management section of the MD&A included in GWL's Q1 2012 Quarterly Report to Shareholders and Section 12, "Enterprise Risks and Risk Management", of MD&A included in GWL's 2011 Annual Report. Readers are cautioned not to place undue reliance on these forward-looking statements, which reflect the Company's expectations only as of the date of this News Release. The Company disclaims any intention or obligation to update or revise these forward-looking statements, whether as a result of new information, future events or otherwise, except as required by law.(1)  See non-GAAP financial measures. SELECTED FINANCIAL INFORMATIONThe following includes selected quarterly financial information which is prepared by management in accordance with International Financial Reporting Standards ("IFRS") and is based on the Company's 2012 First Quarter Report to Shareholders. This financial information does not contain all disclosures required by IFRS, and accordingly, this financial information should be read in conjunction with the Company's 2011 Annual Report and 2012 First Quarter Report to Shareholders available in the Investor Centre section of the Company's website at www.weston.ca.Condensed Consolidated Statements of Earnings (unaudited)   12 Weeks Ended($ millions except where otherwise indicated)  Mar. 24, 2012  Mar. 26, 2011Revenue $ 7,224 $ 7,148Operating Expenses         Cost of inventories sold    5,422  5,341 Selling, general and administrative expenses  1,528  1,504                  6,950  6,845Operating Income    274  303Net Interest Expense and Other Financing Charges  44  66Earnings Before Income Taxes    230  237Income Taxes    59  72Net Earnings    171  165Attributable to:         Shareholders of the Company    124  105 Non-Controlling Interests    47  60Net Earnings $ 171 $ 165Net Earnings per Common Share ($)      Basic $ 0.89 $ 0.74Diluted $ 0.89 $ 0.71         Condensed Consolidated Balance Sheets(unaudited)         As at($ millions)        Mar. 24, 2012        Mar. 26, 2011        Dec. 31, 2011ASSETS         Current Assets          Cash and cash equivalents $ 1,134 $ 754 $ 1,372 Short term investments  2,221  2,323  2,362 Accounts receivable  549  479  559 Credit card receivables  1,987  1,887  2,101 Inventories  2,027  2,020  2,147 Income taxes recoverable  52  17  37 Prepaid expenses and other assets  129  102  122 Assets held for sale  18  68  32Total Current Assets  8,117  7,650  8,732Fixed Assets  9,135  8,835  9,172Investment Properties  95  74  82Goodwill and Intangible Assets  1,545  1,548  1,555Deferred Income Taxes  299  288  295Security Deposits  348  248  367Franchise Loans Receivable  352  315  331Other Assets  831  859  789Total Assets $ 20,722 $ 19,817 $ 21,323LIABILITIES         Current Liabilities          Bank indebtedness                   $ 1 $ 3 Trade and other payables $ 3,263  3,280  3,940 Provisions  65  99  67 Short term debt  1,290  1,251  1,280 Long term debt due within one year  82  352  87Total Current Liabilities  4,700  4,983  5,377Provisions  91  94  94Long Term Debt  6,753  6,164  6,757Deferred Income Taxes  175  164  160Other Liabilities  997  751  1,033Capital Securities  222  221  222Total Liabilities   12,938  12,377  13,643EQUITY         Share Capital  950  950  950Contributed Surplus  19  25  24Retained Earnings  4,584  4,362  4,496Accumulated Other Comprehensive Loss  (25)  (33)  (11)Total Equity Attributable to Shareholders of the Company  5,528  5,304  5,459Non-Controlling Interests  2,256  2,136  2,221Total Equity  7,784  7,440  7,680Total Liabilities and Equity $ 20,722 $ 19,817 $ 21,323          Condensed Consolidated Statements of Cash Flow(unaudited)  12 Weeks Ended($ millions)  Mar. 24, 2012  Mar. 26, 2011Operating Activities       Net earnings   $  171 $  165 Income taxes  59  72 Net interest expense and other financing charges  44  66 Depreciation and amortization  184  166 Foreign currency translation losses  23  17 Income taxes paid  (73)  (78) Interest received  9  17 Net decrease in credit card receivables  114  110 Change in non-cash working capital  (580)  (541) Fixed assets and other related impairments  3  4 Other  8  (4)Cash Flows used in Operating Activities  (38)  (6)Investing Activities       Fixed asset purchases  (144)  (162) Change in short term investments  103  901 Business acquisitions  - net of cash acquired     (12) Proceeds from fixed asset sales  1  5 Change in franchise investments and other receivables  (17)  (1) Change in security deposits  14  183 Other     (7)Cash Flows (used in) from Investing Activities  (43)  907Financing Activities       Change in bank indebtedness  (4)  (11) Change in short term debt  10  380 Long term debt - Issued    23  57                            - Retired    (29)  (858) Subsidiary share capital - Issued  2  3                                          - Retired    (2)    Interest paid  (92)  (111) Dividends   -  To common shareholders  (46)  (1,046)                    - To preferred shareholders  (11)  (11)Cash Flows used in Financing Activities  (149)  (1,597)Effect of foreign currency exchange rate changes on cash and cash equivalents  (8)  (3)Change in Cash and Cash Equivalents  (238)  (699)Cash and Cash Equivalents, Beginning of Period  1,372  1,453Cash and Cash Equivalents, End of Period   $  1,134 $  754       2011 ANNUAL REPORT AND 2012 FIRST QUARTER REPORT TO SHAREHOLDERS The Company's 2011 Annual Report and 2012 First Quarter Report to Shareholders are available in the Investor Centre section of the Company's website at www.weston.ca and have been filed with SEDAR and will be available at www.sedar.com.INVESTOR RELATIONS Shareholders, security analysts and investment professionals should direct their requests to Mr. Geoffrey H. Wilson, Senior Vice President, Financial Control and Investor Relations, at the Company's Executive Office or by e-mail at investor@weston.ca.Additional financial information has been filed electronically with the Canadian securities regulatory authorities in Canada through SEDAR. This News Release includes selected information on Loblaw Companies Limited, a 63.0%-owned public reporting subsidiary company with shares trading on the Toronto Stock Exchange. For information regarding Loblaw, readers should also refer to the materials filed by Loblaw with the Canadian securities regulatory authorities from time to time. These filings are also maintained at Loblaw's corporate website at www.loblaw.ca.CONFERENCE CALL AND WEBCAST PRESENTATIONGeorge Weston Limited will host a conference call as well as an audio webcast on Tuesday, May 8, 2012 at 11:00 a.m. (EST). To access via tele-conference, please dial (647) 427-7450. The playback will be available two hours after the event at (416) 849-0833, passcode: 68967311#. To access via audio webcast, please visit the Investor Centre section of www.weston.ca. Pre-registration will be available.ANNUAL MEETINGThe George Weston Limited Annual Meeting of Shareholders will be held on Thursday, May 10, 2012 at 11:00 a.m. (EST) at The Royal Conservatory, Koerner Hall, TELUS Centre for Performance and Learning, 273 Bloor Street West, Toronto, Ontario, Canada. To access via tele-conference, please dial (647) 427-7450. The playback will be available two hours after the event at (416) 849-0833, passcode: 66303839#. To access via audio webcast, please visit the Investor Centre section of www.weston.ca. Pre-registration will be available.  For further information: Mr. Geoffrey H. Wilson, Senior Vice President, Financial Control and Investor Relations, at the Company's Executive Office or by e-mail at investor@weston.ca