Gruma corn flour tortillas
In the U.S., Gruma's tortilla operations benefitted from tortilla industry growth.

MEXICO CITY, MEXICO — Gains in the U.S. helped Gruma Corp. to reach a sales volume of 436,000 tonnes in the fourth quarter of 2015, which was up 5% from 415,000 tonnes in the previous year’s fourth quarter. Net sales grew 3% to 9.56 billion pesos ($523 million) from 9.27 billion pesos ($508 million).

In the U.S., corn flour and tortilla operations benefitted from tortilla industry growth, especially among non-Hispanic consumers. Corn flour increased as a result of snack business growth. The tortilla operations, retail in particular, benefitted as Gruma continued to increase secondary displays on perimeter locations of retail stores.

“We are gaining clients from competitors (in the United States),” said Raul Cavazos, chief financial officer of Mexico City, Mexico-based Gruma SAB de CV, in a Feb. 25 earnings call. “We are converting traditional tortilla or tortilla chips or snack producers to the use of corn flour, and because of that we’ve been experiencing important growth in the Northeast region of the U.S.”

Operating income for Gruma Corp. in the fourth quarter dropped 2% to 1.08 billion pesos from 1.09 billion pesos after an increase in expenses of 322 million pesos due mainly to impairments of assets related to The Netherlands tortilla plant and losses on corn hedges.

Gruma Corp. is part of Gruma SAB de CV, which posted net sales growth of 17% and sales volume growth of 4% in the fourth quarter of 2015. Sales of 15.164 billion pesos ($836 million) compared with 12.9 billion pesos in the fourth quarter of the previous year. Sales volume rose to 977,000 tonnes from 941,000 tonnes. EBITDA jumped 25% to 2.49 billion pesos ($137 million) from 1.98 billion pesos.

Discontinued operations resulted in a non-cash charge of 4.249 billion pesos, which were in connection with the write-off of the indirect net investment related to Molinos Nacionales, C.A. (MONACA), and Derivados de Maíz Seleccionado, DEMASECA, C.A. (DEMASECA), as well as accounts receivable from MONACA owed to some of Gruma’s subsidiaries. Majority net loss in the fourth quarter was 2.68 billion pesos in connection with the write-off.

Gruma expects capital expenditure to be about $350 million this year, Cavazos said.