Canadian coffee roaster and distributor Van Houtte has posted a fall in first-quarter profit and warned its fiscal 2004 earnings could be lower than expected.

Van Houtte reported earnings of C$3.3m (US$2.4m), or 15 cents a share, for the first-quarter to 19 July, compared to $5.3m, or 25 cents a share, a year earlier.

Sales slid to $93.4m from $94.4m in the year-ago period.

The company attributed the fall in first-quarter profit to $1m in severance pay for its previous president and chief executive, as well as expenses incurred with the launch of new coffee machines and the expansion of its US sales network.

Analysts had been expecting Van Houtte to earn $1.01 per share in its fiscal year 2004.

“We were expecting C$1 (per share profit) at the start of the year, but we are giving ourselves a couple of months to revise this,” Van Houtte’s new president and chief executive, Jean-Yves Monette, was quoted by Reuters as saying.