North America's largest foodservice marketer and distributor, Sysco Corporation, today [Wednesday] announced that earnings per share for the fiscal 2002 second quarter ended 29 December, increased 14.3% to US$0.24 compared to US$0.21, on a diluted basis, for the same period last year.

Meanwhile, sales for the quarter rose 5.7%, to US$5.6bn from US$5.3bn in the Q2 last year. Net earnings of US$158.5m represented a gain of 13.7% over the US$139.4m achieved in the second quarter of fiscal 2001.

Diluted earnings per share for the first half of fiscal 2002 increased 14.3% to US$0.48 compared to earnings per share of US$0.42 for the first half of fiscal 2001. Sales for the first half of fiscal 2002 were US$11.4bn, a gain of 7.2% in comparison to sales of US$10.7bn for the comparable period in the previous year. Net earnings for the first six months of fiscal 2002 increased 13.8% to US$322.5m compared with US$283.4m for the year earlier period.

Charles H. Cotros, SYSCO's chairman and CEO, commented: "A continued emphasis on the basics of our business, combined with the talent and commitment of all SYSCO employees, has enabled our company to achieve strong financial results while also undergirding the success of our customers."

Cotros added that sales to marketing associate-served customers were 55.3% of broadline sales for the quarter compared to 53.6% last year.

In addition, SYSCO Brand sales represented 55.7% of marketing associate-served sales for the quarter as opposed to 53.2% for the second quarter of fiscal 2001. Broadline sales for the quarter were US$4.6bn, 3.5% higher than last year.

"After the events of 11 September," Cotros added: "We stressed that in difficult times like these, our marketing associates become even more important to our customers as they assist them with inventory and cost controls and help them create new avenues to succeed in their businesses. We were confident then, and remain confident now, that the strategies we have in place and the numerous value-added services we offer can help our customers operate their businesses more efficiently and successfully."

He continued: "Internal sales growth for the quarter was approximately 2.7% after eliminating the effects of 3% for acquisitions. For the first half of fiscal 2002, internal sales growth was about 4%, after excluding the 3.2% adjustment for acquisitions. Inflation was 2% for the quarter and 2.7% for the H1 of fiscal 2002."

Cotros went on to discuss the performance of The SYGMA Network, SYSCO's chain restaurant distribution operation, as well as the performance of SYSCO's specialty companies.

"SYGMA generated a 10.3% increase in sales to US$657.4m for the second quarter, as compared to US$596.1m in last year's Q2. This is indicative of the overall gains quickservice operators experienced in the weeks and months following the events of 11 September and is also a testament to our ability to develop and maintain relationships with our valued chain restaurant customers.

"As has widely been reported, many travel and resort destination cities experienced a considerable downturn in demand. Our specialty businesses which serve the hotels, theme parks and other travel-related industries in certain areas also were impacted. On the other hand, pockets of the country not dependent on such business reported continued growth, somewhat offsetting the weakness in tourism locations. We are seeing business in the major destination cities slowly increasing, which bodes well for all our companies, as well as our specialty meat, produce and hotel supply operations."