Dole Reports 89% Profit Decline in 4th Quarter

From Bloomberg News

Dole Food Co., the world's largest fruit and vegetable producer, said fourth-quarter profit fell 89% from a year earlier, when the company had a gain from selling a Honduran beverage business.

Net income fell to $18.4 million, or 33 cents a share, from $173.5 million, or $3.10, a year earlier, the company said.

Excluding the gain in 2001, profit more than quadrupled from $4.1 million, said Dole, which last month agreed to be taken private by Chief Executive David Murdock.

Higher banana prices and sales in Asia helped boost revenue 1.3% to $960 million. The cost of products sold declined 3.2% to $815.9 million, helped by the closure of six fresh-cut flower plants.

In December, Murdock and his family agreed to buy the 76% of Dole shares they don't already own for $2.5 billion, or $33.50 a share. Transaction expenses cost Westlake Village-based Dole $2.4 million in the quarter.

Excluding the costs from the Murdock transaction and a $5-million gain from taxes, profit was $15.8 million, or 29 cents a share. On that basis, which is not in accordance with generally accepted accounting principles, Dole beat the 27-cent average estimate of four analysts surveyed by Thomson First Call.

Dole expects to have 65 to 70 cents a share in profit from continuing operations in the first quarter and $2.83 to $2.93 a share for the year. U.S. Bancorp Piper Jaffray analyst Eric Larson forecast first-quarter earnings of $1.09 a share.

Shares of Dole rose 20 cents to $32.55 on the New York Stock Exchange.

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