Maruha Nichiro back in the black

Japanese seafood heavyweight Maruha Nichiro Holdings recently released its first-quarter results for fiscal 2010.

Sales for the period ending 30 June totaled JPY 200.9 billion (USD 2.1 billion, EUR 1.5 billion), down 12.1 percent from the same period last year. Operating profit was down 66.3 percent, and net profit was down 12.4 percent, to JPY 1.9 billion (USD 19 million, EUR 13 million).

The company lost JPY 6.3 billion (USD 65 million, EUR 45 million) in fiscal 2009, despite a profitable forth quarter that was due largely to strong demand for Alaskan pollock.

Maruha Nichiro’s first-quarter results benefited from the sale of its Madagascar prawn-trawling operations, though it represented a loss on its original investment.

In bluefin tuna and other high-end fish, there was lower demand due to the poor economy, and lower profit. The company’s Alaska pollock fishing operations, which were a bright spot in the previous quarter, suffered higher production costs from a longer operating period and slower sales.

In the seafood products trading segment, items like shrimp and scallops sold well, while sashimi items and tuna sold poorly; profits were down here, too.

Though the company’s Thai processing operations sold less, they benefited from lower raw material costs and increased profit. However, the processing segment lost money overall, as there was strong price competition among Japanese makers of fish sausage and chikuwa.

Looking forward, under Maruha-Nichiro’s 2008-11 “Double Wave 21” plan, the company will increase production of bluefin tuna, vannamei shrimp and grouper farming. But another one of its goals — to pay down its heavy debt, which is five times its assets — looks ever more distant.

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