Branded food manufacturer International Multifoods has reported a drop in quarterly operating profit, hit by higher commodity costs and lower pension income.

Minneapolis-based Multifoods reported earnings for the fiscal first quarter to 31 May, excluding restructuring charges, of US$2m, or 10 cents a share, compared with $3.3m, or 17 cents a share, a year earlier.

Including special items the company posted a net loss of $300,000, or 2 cents a share, compared with a loss of $36.4m, or $1.87 per share, in the year-ago period.

"Our performance in the quarter was in line with expectations, and we are on track to deliver earnings before unusual items of $1.70 to $1.75 per share for the full year," Gary Costley, Multifoods chairman and chief executive officer, was quoted by Reuters as saying.

Net sales for the quarter totalled $213.9m, compared with $210.4m in the year-ago period.

The company also said it has agreed to sell its foodservice pie business for about $2.3m in cash, with proceeds from the sale going towards reducing debt.

In connection with the sale and the resulting closure of Multifoods' Simcoe, Ontario foodservice pie plant, the company expects to take a pre-tax charge of between $1m and $2m over the balance of the year.