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George Weston Ltd. reports third-quarter profit up from year ago mark

TORONTO — The parent company of one of Canada's largest grocers outperformed analyst expectations as its third-quarter profit rose while the company works through its multi-year transformation plan.

George Weston Ltd.'s third-quarter results are "a full baguette higher than forecast," wrote Irene Nattel, an RBC Dominion Securities Inc. analyst, in a note.

This indicates "that management has finally stabilized the business, with view to growing the current base," she said.

The retail, bakery and real estate business announced Tuesday that its quarterly profit attributable to common shareholders for the 16 weeks ended Oct. 5 was $69 million or 44 cents per diluted share.

That compared with a profit of $51 million attributable to common shareholders, or 40 cents per diluted share, in the same quarter last year.

On an adjusted basis, George Weston says it earned $391 million or $2.54 per diluted common share in its latest quarter, up from $288 million or $2.25 per diluted common share a year ago.

Analysts on average had expected an adjusted profit of $2.14 per share, according to financial markets data firm Refinitiv.

Sales totalled $15.2 billion, up from nearly $14.9 billion.

"We are pleased with the results for the quarter," said Richard Dufresne, president and chief financial officer at George Weston, during a conference call with analysts after the company released its results.

Improved performance at Loblaw Companies Ltd., an income tax expense decrease and direct ownership interest in Choice Properties as a result of a reorganization last year mainly drove the profit increase, he said.

Choice Properties delivered another quarter of strong results, he said, and the company is pleased with positive momentum it's seeing at Weston Foods — its fresh and frozen bakery division.

The company is about to complete the second year of a multi-year transformation plan intended to restructure the organization and simplify operations.

Management is delivering results, said Dufresne, and the team continues to focus on winning new business in growing categories and driving operational efficiencies.

"There is still lots of work to do, but we are encouraged by our (third-quarter) results as we continue to stabilize the business," he said.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Nov. 19, 2019.

Companies in this story: (TSX:WN, TSX:L, TSX:CHP.UN)

The Canadian Press