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Sanderson sees better quarter, but still loses $8M

LAUREL — Sanderson Farms Inc., for the first fiscal quarter ended Jan. 31, saw net sales of $517.8 million compared with $427.7 million for the same period a year ago.

For the quarter, the poultry company had a net loss of $8.0 million, or $0.36 per share, compared with a net loss of $33.6 million, or $1.52 per share, for the first quarter of fiscal 2011.

“Our results for the first quarter of fiscal 2012 reflect improved, but still challenging, conditions for our industry,” said Joe F. Sanderson Jr., chairman and CEO of Sanderson Farms. “We experienced higher poultry market prices than the same period a year ago. While retail demand for chicken has remained steady, we continue to see weak food service demand, and we believe food service demand will remain under pressure until the national employment environment improves. Weak food service demand and ample supplies continue to weigh on market prices for boneless breast meat produced at our food service plants. While grain prices have retreated from the highs they set last fall, we also experienced higher feed costs during the first quarter, and this continues to affect our profitability.

“Market conditions steadily improved during our first fiscal quarter compared with last year’s first quarter and compared with our fourth quarter of fiscal 2011, and the company was profitable in January. However, we continue to experience high grain prices, especially for corn. Corn supplies are at their tightest level in 15 years, which will likely keep upward pressure on grain costs at least until the market gets some visibility into the quantity and quality of the 2012 crops.

“Our balance sheet at Jan. 31, 2012, reflects refundable income taxes at Jan. 31, 2012, of approximately $102.1 million, $82.7 million of which relates to a federal income tax refund due as a result of the company’s fiscal 2011 net loss. The company received that refund on Feb. 27, 2012, and will use the proceeds of the refund to reduce outstanding borrowings under its revolving credit agreement.”

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