VIENNA, AUSTRIA — AGRANA Beteiligungs-AG reported on July 11 that first-quarter operating profit before exceptional items amounted to €61.9 million, a drop of 12.7% from the €70.9 million reported in the prior year's first quarter.

After last year's strong result, group revenue expanded by 9.9% to €851.6 million. While operating profit in the Fruit segment was all but doubled, higher raw material costs weighed on the margins in the Sugar and Starch segments, as expected.

Net financial items in the first quarter came to a net expense of €7.9 million; the change year-on-year resulted primarily from an improved net interest expense. With an income tax expense of €14 million based on a tax rate of 26% (prior year: 22.5%), the group’s profit for the period was €39.9 million (prior year: €47.5 million). After non-controlling interests, earnings per share attributable to AGRANA's shareholders were €2.65 (first-quarter 2012-13: €3.32).

AGRANA Chief Executive Officer Johann Marihart said, “In terms of revenue, we achieved a positive start to AGRANA's anniversary year. At the same time, as expected, the high raw material prices detracted from our profitability.”

Starch segment revenue in the first quarter was up from the year-ago level. Operating profit before exceptional items decreased from the year-earlier quarter. The main reason was an increase in raw material costs. The profit contribution from AGRANA Bioethanol GmbH was in line with one year earlier. On balance, this business performance in the segment led to a reduction in operating margin from 12.5% to 7.5%.

For the 2013-14 financial year, AGRANA continues to expect a slight increase in group revenue, driven primarily by volume growth. AGRANA reiterates its projection that full year operating profit before exceptional items will not reach the group's very good results of the past two financial years. In all three segments, the total investment will be about €143 million in the 2013-14 financial year, thus providing solid support for the group’s long-term growth trajectory.