US pasta maker American Italian Pasta has reported a small rise in first-quarter earnings as strong sales helped lessen the impact of the rising cost of durum wheat.

The company said it earned US$8.92m, or 49 cents a share, in the first quarter to 31 December, compared to $8.85m, or 48 cents a share, a year earlier. Revenues were up 16.3% to $107m.

The results included costs of 5 cents per share to cover acquisition and plant start-up expenses.

American Italian Pasta said it expects 2003 earnings per share of $2.50 to $2.60, excluding one-off items, reported Reuters.