The addition of Bertolli olive oil to the Grupo SOS stable has helped boost earnings at the Spanish food group during the first quarter of the year.

SOS, which has been shaken after a share scandal led to the departure of its chairman and CEO, booked a 55.3% jump in EBITDA yesterday (13 May). 

EBITDA reached EUR32m (US$43.7m) after SOS saw earnings from its olive oil business more than double.

The company, which also owns Carbonell olive oil, said its olive oil business generated EBITDA of EUR31m – some 97% of the firm’s EBITDA – in the first three months of 2008.

“Bertolli has reinforced the group’s leadership position in Italy and has boosted sales at the international level,” SOS said yesterday (13 May).

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Group turnover climbed by 13.5% to EUR357.5m, three-quarters of which was generated by the olive oil business. Rice revenues rose by 12%.

The SOS board, which at the weekend announced plans for a EUR200m share issue, said it would give more details about the move “in the coming days”.

SOS hopes the share issue will also help it meet the requirements of a EUR994m syndicated loan. The group is looking to renegotiate the terms of the loan having already breaking some of the covenants contained in the agreement.

The company is also looking to reduce its debts through the sale of assets, including its vinegar and sauces business.

Earlier this week, SOS was forced to restate its 2008 accounts in the wake of the share scandal.

The SOS board met to discuss the fall-out of the revelation that ex-chairman Jesús Salazar and former CEO Jaime Salazar used a loan from the business to buy company shares.

The Salazars, who are major shareholders in SOS, then planned to sell the stock to an Arab sovereign wealth fund through a holding company called Condor Plus, a move that had not been approved by the SOS board.