US meat processor Swift & Company has reported net sales of US$2.4bn for its fiscal first quarter ended 28 August 2005, down 4% from the previous year's first quarter.

The world's second-largest processor of fresh beef and pork products said a continued strong net sales increase in the company's Swift Australia segment was more than offset by net sales declines in the Swift Pork and Swift Beef segments.

Swift Australia's first quarter net sales benefited from a 7.5% increase in the Australian dollar to US dollar exchange rate compared to the prior year period.

The company's first quarter EBITDA (earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortisation) was $29m, versus $71m in the prior year period. An $18m EBITDA increase at Swift Beef was more than offset by EBITDA declines at Swift Australia and Swift Pork.

"We experienced challenging market conditions this quarter," said Sam Rovit, Swift & Company's president and chief executive officer. "While we have noted a profitability improvement in Swift Beef, we recognise that the continued lack of access to export markets has impacted the bottom-line performance not just of this business but of the entire domestic beef industry. Swift Australia's profitability declined because of significantly higher raw material costs related to tight local livestock supply. Despite these issues, our capital structure has allowed us to maintain tremendous financial and operational flexibility. We will continue to actively address the controllable factors in our business as we prepare for the return of more favourable market conditions."