By JACK WEATHERLY
Sanderson Farms Inc. net income more than doubled in the first fiscal quarter compared with the year earlier period – thanks to dark-meat sales recovering from a slump brought on by the avian flu outbreak in 2015.
Sales for the quarter ending Jan. 31 were $688.3 million, compared with $605.2 million a year earlier.
Net income for the quarter was $23.2 million, or $1.02 per share, compared with $10.7 million, or 47 cents per share in 2016, the Laurel-based company said in a release issued last week.
Nevertheless, earnings fell short of Wall Street expectations. The average estimate of five analysts surveyed by Zacks Investment Research was for earnings of $1.16 per share.
“Our results for the first quarter reflect improved market prices for dark meat products,” Chairman and Chief Executive Joe Sanderson Jr., said in the release.
“Leg quarter prices during last year’s first fiscal quarter reflected avian influenza-related bans on United States poultry products” whose bans, except for China, have been lifted, Sanderson said.
Sanderson, the third-largest poultry processor in the nation, was successful in avoiding the avian flu outbreak, which primarily struck processors in the Midwest.
The company has 12 processing plants located around the South, seven in Mississippi, with the latest commencing operations last month in St. Pauls, N.C. “We expect the plant to reach full production in the company’s first fiscal quarter of 2018,” Sanderson said.
The company has been targeted by antitrust lawsuits filed in two federal district courts.
Former contract chicken growers filed suit Jan. 27 in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Oklahoma against Laurel and other major processors, seeking damages for what they contend is price fixing that squeezed them out of their livelihood.
Sanderson and 13 other processors were sued along the same lines last fall in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois.