Profit climbs at Spain's Ebro Foods as lockdowns force consumers to dine in

MADRID, April 28 (Reuters) - Spain’s Ebro Foods reported a 10.6% rise in first-quarter net profit on Wednesday as lockdowns and restrictions on restaurant opening hours pushed more people to eat at home.

The owner of brands such as Tilda rice and Garofalo pasta said profit reached 52.8 million euros ($63.72 million), up from 47.8 million a year earlier, also helped by the sale of its Canadian pasta brand Catelli for 165 million Canadian dollars ($133 million).

Sales dropped 8.7% over the same period to 697.2 million euros, which Ebro attributed to the distorting effects of panic buying during the early days of the pandemic last year.

The company, which describes itself as the world’s second-biggest vendor of packaged rice, had to rearrange its production last year to meet unusually high peaks in demand for rice and pasta.

Despite the solid quarterly profit, Ebro pointed to higher freight and raw-material costs, a flagging economy and increased competition among suppliers as potential difficulties in the coming year.

$1 = 0.8286 euros $1 = 1.2390 Canadian dollars Reporting by Nathan Allen, editing by Andrei Khalip