George Weston Ltd. reported an almost 34-per-cent increase in is first-quarter earnings and boosted its quarterly dividend more than 9 per cent on Tuesday.
The majority owner of supermarket chain Loblaw Cos. Ltd. and Weston Foods says net income attributable to common shareholders was $162-million or $1.19 per share.
That was up 33.9 per cent from $121-million or 87 cents per share in the same period a year ago.
Sales improved 3.7 per cent to $7.49-billion from $7.22-billion.
George Weston also increased its quarterly dividend 9.2 per cent to 41.5 cents, up from 38 cents.
Adjusted basic net earnings per common share were 88 cents, up from 87 cents in 2012 as a result of improvement in the operating performance of Loblaw, partially offset by a higher effective income tax rate.
However, that was two cents lower than the consensus estimate of analysts as compiled by Thomson Reuters.
“Our continued focus on enhancing shareholder value is a priority and today we announced a dividend increase – building on the (5.6-per-cent) increase announced late last year,” executive chairman Galen Weston said in the company’s earnings release.
“Work is well under way on the initial public offering of the Loblaw Real Estate Investment Trust, and I am pleased with the progress,” Weston said.
The first-quarter results included a boost from foreign currency translation, amendments to the company’s defined benefit pension plan and the forward sale agreement for 9.6 million Loblaw common shares.
During the first quarter of 2013, the company announced amendments to certain of its defined benefit plans involving certain employees retiring after Jan. 1, 2015.
As a result, the company recorded a gain of $51-million in the quarter and will realize annual pre-tax savings of approximately $14-million.