Imperial Sugar Co. said Monday it slid to a bigger-than-expected loss in the last three months of the year compared with a year-ago period that benefited from a hefty insurance claims settlement.
The refined sugar processor, which markets sugar under the Imperial, Dixie Crystals and Holly brands, posted a loss of $8.9 million, or 75 cents per share, for its fiscal first quarter ended Dec. 31. That compares with earnings of $178.1 million, or $14.84 per share, a year earlier.
However, the year-ago period included a gain of $278.5 million related to an insurance claims settlement for a February 2008 Port Wentworth accident. The period also included $18.9 million of mark-to-market gains on raw sugar derivatives intended to hedge some raw sugar purchases. Excluding those gains, the company would have posted a loss of $12.2 million, or $1.03 per share.
Current-quarter results include a $2.9 million severance charge related primarily to the transition of refining operations in Louisiana.
Revenue rose 31 percent to $227.4 million from $173.8 million on higher sales volumes and increased refined prices. However, a 13 percent rise in domestic raw sugar costs partly offset the revenue gains.
Analysts surveyed by FactSet had expected a smaller loss of 57 cents per share on higher revenue of $249.3 million.
Imperial Sugar's stock fell 64 cents, or 5.3 percent, to $11.36 in midday trading. Over the last year, shares of the Sugar Land, Texas company have traded in a range of $9.50 to $17.28.
Looking ahead, Imperial Sugar said it is planning wider retail distribution of stevia-sucrose product Steviacane later this year. The sweetener was developed by its 50 percent-owned Natural Sweet Ventures and started retail consumer trials in November.
The company also said that now that repairs at its refined silos have been completed, it anticipates placing the silos back into service this month.
"We are anxious to continue the ramp-up in production in Port Wentworth once the silos are on line," said John Sheptor, president and CEO.