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High Liner reports profit increase, lower sales

ROB, HIGH LINER SEAFOODS, LUNENBURG, NOVA SCOTIA: Workers run the assembly line package fish fillets at the High Liner Foods plant in Lunenburg, NS, March 10, 2010.

PAUL DARROW for The Globe and Mail/paul darrow/The Globe and Mail

High Liner Foods Inc. has reported an increase in its first-quarter earnings compared with a year ago when it was hit by costs related to its acquisition of Icelandic USA.

The frozen seafood company, which keeps its books in U.S. dollars, said Tuesday it earned $5.3-million or 34 cents per share for the quarter ended March 30 compared with a profit of $1.7-million or 11 cents per share a year ago.

Sales were $275.2-million, down from $287.6-million.

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Excluding one-time items, the company said it earned an adjusted profit of $9.8-million or 63 cents per share, down from $14-million or 11 cents per share a year ago.

"It was a challenging quarter, particularly in the U.S., as we faced a number of issues specific to the quarter and a very strong first quarter last year as the comparable period," president and chief executive Henry Demone said in a statement.

"Prices for commodity products in the quarter declined more rapidly than the applicable costs for such products, resulting in reduced sales as well as reduced margins. In the U.S., restaurant sales were soft during the quarter as macro-economic considerations, including higher payroll taxes, impacted consumers and reduced restaurant traffic."

High Liner is one of North America's leading producers of frozen seafood including the High Liner, Fisher Boy, Mirabel and Sea Cuisine brands.

The company also sells to restaurants, hospitals and schools and is a big supplier of private label seafood.

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