Appetite for pasta and rice boosts Spain's Ebro net profit

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MADRID, Oct 28 (Reuters) - Spain’s Ebro Foods profit jumped almost 28% in the first nine months of 2020 on surging demand for its pasta and rice as coronavirus restrictions prompted people to eat more at home.

The company, which says it is the world’s second-largest rice seller and maker of dry and fresh pasta, said on Wednesday its net profit during the January-September period rose to 146.7 million euros ($173.4 million), driven by its premium rice and pasta brands.

“Although there have been no confinements, the effects of the pandemic have continued to be visible, causing significant peaks in the intensity of demand, at specific times, for each of our business areas,” Ebro said, referring to the third quarter.

Even though most countries had by the third quarter lifted lockdowns imposed to curb the spread of the coronavirus, most kept restrictions on outings and travel, forcing people to stay home and cook more for themselves.

The company said its sales climbed 19.2% to 2.43 billion euros as it managed to raise production capacity to meet demand.

Ebro Foods, which owns pasta brands such as Garofalo in Italy, Panzani in France and Tilda rice in Britain, said its adjusted earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortization (EBITDA) rose 28% to 327.1 million euros.

The company said it expects to end 2020 with sales around 3.15-3.2 billon euros, and an Ebitda of between 422-432 million euros.

Also on Wednesday, Ebro announced the sale of its “Catelli” dry pasta business in Canada to Italy-based Barilla Group in a transaction valuing the unit at 165 million Canadian dollars ($125.13 million).

Ebro, which said it was not expecting to generate any capital gain from the sale, added it would focus its efforts in Canada on its Garofalo, Olivieri (fresh pasta and sauces) and rice brands.

($1 = 0.8461 euros)

$1 = 1.3186 Canadian dollars Reporting by Emma Pinedo, Editing by Inti Landauro and Emelia Sithole-Matarise