Fresh Del Monte Produce Inc. (NYSE:FDP) one of the world's largest producers and marketers of fresh fruit, vegetables and other produce, reported strong financial results for the fourth quarter and full year ended 28 December, 2001.

Fresh Del Monte reported net income of US$5.3m, or US$0.10 per diluted share, in the fourth quarter of 2001, compared with a net loss of US$8.5m, or US$0.16 per diluted share in the fourth quarter of 2000. Net sales for the fourth quarter of 2001 were US$422.0m, compared with US$411.2m for the same period last year.

On a full year basis, net sales increased to US$1.93bn from US$1.86bn in 2000. Net income for 2001 was US$96.2m, or US$1.77 per diluted share, compared with US$33.1m, or US$0.62 per diluted share, in the prior year.

Operating income for the fourth quarter of 2001 was US$22.6m, compared with US$1.0m for the fourth quarter of 2000. Operating income for the year ended 28 December, 2001 was US$164.9m, versus US$82.6m in the previous year. The decline in interest rates along with lower cost of bunker fuel and containerboard, stronger banana pricing, stability in the European banana market, and the company's proven business strategy helped to drive excellent performance during the fourth quarter and full year.

Mohammad Abu-Ghazaleh, Chairman and CEO of Fresh Del Monte Produce Inc., said: "Our positive fourth quarter, the first profitable fourth quarter in our history, capped a year marked by strong performance. More than any other metric, we believe this year's performance testifies to the progress we have made in expanding our core business, while reducing our debt level. For the last five years, we have aggressively pursued our goal to become a major contender in the fresh and fresh-cut produce business. We have focused carefully on implementing our business initiatives and executing our strategies, and we are now at a point where we can say that we have met several of our objectives, which positions us to move to a new level of excellence. We expect 2002 to be another strong year and we are confident that we will grow revenue and earnings."

Fresh Del Monte is a leading vertically integrated producer and marketer of high quality fresh and packaged fresh-cut fruit and vegetables. Our products include bananas, pineapples, cantaloupe, honeydew, watermelons, grapes, non-tropical fruit (including citrus, apples, pears, peaches, plums, nectarines, apricots and kiwi), plantains, Vidalia(R) sweet onions and various greens. We market our products worldwide under the DEL MONTE(R) brand, a symbol of product quality and reliability since 1892.