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La Sauvagine, part of Saputo's line of cheeses. The Saputo is the world's 12th-largest dairy processor and Canada's largest with more than 10,000 employees. (Christinne Muschi for The Globe and Mail/Christinne Muschi for The Globe and Mail)
La Sauvagine, part of Saputo's line of cheeses. The Saputo is the world's 12th-largest dairy processor and Canada's largest with more than 10,000 employees. (Christinne Muschi for The Globe and Mail/Christinne Muschi for The Globe and Mail)

Saputo's fourth-quarter profit rises despite writedown Add to ...

Cheese maker Saputo Inc. reported Tuesday a fourth-quarter profit of $102.5-million, up 3.4 per cent from year-earlier earnings of $99.1-million, despite booking a $13.6-million pretax writedown related to its investments.

The Montreal-based company said its profit amounted to 49 cents a share, compared with earnings of 47 cents in the same period a year before. Revenue rose to $1.49-billion from $1.38-billion.

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Saputo had been expected to earn 56 cents per diluted share on $1.45-billion in revenue during the fourth quarter, compared to 47 cents on $1.38-billion a year earlier, according to analysts polled by Thomson Reuters.

The writedown against the value of its portfolio investment created an $11.6-million or 6-cent-a-share drag on quarterly earnings, Saputo said in a statement. The writedown resulted from a report from an independent valuator issued on the fair market value of the investment, which Saputo said it plans to contest "to pursue all recourses and remedies available under the law."

For the full year, Saputo reported profit of $451.1-million or $2.16 a share, up 17.9 per cent from its 2010 earnings of $382.7-million or $1.83. Annual revenue rose 3.7 per cent to $6.03-billion.

Analysts had expected Saputo's annual profit to increase 22 per cent to $2.24 a share on $6-billion in revenue.

The cheese maker has acquired Fairmount Cheese Holdings Inc., the parent of U.S.-based DCI Cheese Company Inc., for $270.5-million (U.S.). Saputo said the March takeover will increase its presence in the specialty cheese market in the United States.

DCI, with about 475 employees, sells and distributes specialty cheese from Green Bay, Wis., and Carlstadt, N.J.

Saputo is the world's 12th-largest dairy processor and Canada's largest with more than 10,000 employees. It produces, markets and distributes cheese, milk, yogurt and dairy products at 46 plants in Canada, the United States, Europe and Argentina. It is also Canada's largest snack cake producer.

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