Saudi’s Almarai posts profit rise, warns of tough market

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Higher sales helped Saudi Arabia’s Almarai to post a marginal rise in first-quarter net profit on Sunday, though the Gulf’s largest dairy company warned of challenging market conditions in the face of the region’s economic slowdown.
Saudi companies are grappling with a protracted slump in oil prices that is putting government and consumer spending under pressure. One indicator of the latter is cash withdrawals from automated teller machines sinking 13 percent year on year in February, according to official data.
Almarai made a profit of 308.5 million riyals ($82.3 million) in the three months to March 31, up from 306.5 million riyals in the same period last year, against an average forecast of 302 million riyals from five analysts polled by Reuters.
“Given the very competitive market conditions driven by the economic slowdown, the performance of the company has been relatively strong in its core segments,” the company said.
In another sign of the challenges facing the Saudi retail sector, Jarir Marketing, one of the kingdom’s largest retailers by market value, posted a 29.5 percent drop in first-quarter net profit on falling sales, particularly for smartphones and other electronics.
For Almarai, sales remained strong, with a 13.6 percent increase on the back of growth for its dairy and juice, bakery and poultry segments helping to maintain profit levels. But the company said that the cost of sales rose faster than sales. It said in January that the government’s utility price increases and new crop-growing restrictions would increase costs by 500 million riyals in 2016.
Almarai was established in Riyadh in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia in 1977 as a partnership between the Irish agri-foods pioneer Alastair McGuckian, his brother Paddy and Prince Sultan bin Mohammed bin Saud Al Kabeer. Today, Almarai is the largest vertically integrated dairy company in the world.
During the early 1990s, Almarai entered a period of restructuring and reinvestment that took it from a decentralized to a centralized structure. Five decentralized processing plants were replaced with the a central processing plant. Also ten small scattered dairy farms were replaced with four large dairy farms in Al Kharj in the central region.
2005 brought many developments for Almarai, a second larger central processing plant was commissioned, incorporating a new cheese plant, two new super-farms were commissioned and Almarai a publicly listed company that has around 70,000 shareholders.

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