VIENNA, AUSTRIA — AGRANA Beteiligungs-AG reported on Jan. 13 a drop in operating profit before exceptional items for the first three quarters of the year due to a drop in selling prices in its sugar and starch segments.

Operating profit was €158.6 million, down from the record profits of €204.3 million in the previous year. Group revenue was up 1.2% to €2.4 billion.

"As we expected, our operating profit could not match the excellent year-ago result, even if  the third-quarter operating margin improved compared to the second quarter. In the quarter  under review, in November, AGRANA completed the 60,000 tonne capacity sugar silo in  Kaposvár, Hungary. The construction of our fourth U.S. fruit preparations plant is on schedule  and the facility will be finished in May," said Johann Marihart, chief executive  officer of AGRANA Beteiligungs-AG. 

After a net financial items expense of €22.2 million and a tax expense of €33.9 million (corresponding to a tax rate of 24.8%), group profit for the period was €102.6 million. 

Revenue growth in starch was attributed to higher sales volumes. The reduction in earnings is explained primarily by a lower profit contribution from HUNGRANA, the joint venture in Hungary. Amid more intense competition, selling prices were down. As well, the commissioning of the wheat starch plant in Pischelsdorf, Austria, entailed the expected start-up losses.