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High Liner profit soars as acquisition-related costs fall, overall sales rise

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LUNENBURG, N.S. - High Liner Foods Inc. (TSX:HLF) had a much more profitable year in 2013 as overall sales improved and acquisition-related costs declined.

The Nova Scotia-based seafood company said Wednesday that its net income for the 12 months ended Dec. 28 soared to $31.3 million, including $8.7 million in the fourth quarter.

In 2012, High Liner had a net loss of $2.7 million or 17 cents per share in the fourth quarter and only $2.2 million of net income for the full year.

The company attributed the improvement to a number of factors, including reduced financing costs and fewer one-time items related to acquisitions.

Its annual revenue edged up about 1.5 per cent to $947.3 million, while High Liner's fourth-quarter revenue was up nearly 17 per cent from a year before at $254.4 million.

The company says its overall fourth-quarter sales were helped by the acquisition of American Pride in October but sales were otherwise down because of continued softness in the U.S. restaurant industry and falling demand for private label retail seafood brands.

High Liner said it plans a two-for-one stock split and will seek shareholder approval at the company's annual meeting on May 8 in Halifax.

After the split, the market value of each High Liner share will be cut in half but shareholders would have twice as many shares as before.

On the Toronto Stock Exchange, High Liner shares were up 10 cents at $47.60 in afternoon trading Wednesday.

"Following years of exceptionally strong growth, we are pleased to report that in fiscal 2013, High Liner Foods achieved the highest sales and earnings in its history," chief executive Henry Demone said in a statement.

"The acquisition of American Pride bolstered sales in the fourth quarter and contributed to a strong finish to the year, which overall, has been a successful year, but hasn't been without its challenges."

"Excluding American Pride, sales in the fourth quarter from our U.S. food service business and our U.S. and Canadian retail value-added private label businesses declined on a year-over-year basis," Demone noted.

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