US branded food maker International Multifoods has reported lower quarterly net income for fiscal 2004 but said it got off to a good start in the current fiscal year.

The company posted net earnings of US$2.7m, or 14 cents per diluted share, for the fourth quarter to 28 February, compared with net earnings of $7.9m, or 40 cents per share, in the year-ago period.

Net sales for the three months were $212m, down 2.6% from $217.6m in the prior year period.

For the full year, Multifoods reported net earnings of $17.5m, or 90 cents per share, compared with a net loss of $46m, or $2.37 per share, in fiscal 2003. Net sales for the 12 months to 28 February were $908m, down 3.3% year-on-year.

CEO Gary E Costley said results for the year were in line with its revised earnings expectations.

“We remain focused on our strategic priorities of brand-building, product innovation and improving our operational efficiencies. We continue to see moderation in the competitive environment in the US retail baking products category and gradual improvement in some segments of the foodservice industry,” Costley said.

“We are off to a good start in fiscal 2005 with our businesses better positioned to capitalise on improving market conditions over the next year. We expect to continue this momentum into the pending merger with J.M. Smucker. We are confident in the benefits that the combination of Smucker and Multifoods will bring to our key stakeholders,” he added.