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Chiquita Seeks New CEO

Wed, 08/08/2012 - 12:54pm

CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) — Chiquita Brands International Inc. said Tuesday that it has started a search for a new CEO and began a cost-cutting plan in an effort to turn around results.

The produce company also announced that its net income fell 92 percent in the second quarter. Its year-ago results included a hefty income-tax benefit. This year Chiquita has been affected by competition, weakness in Europe, lower banana prices and higher sourcing costs.

Net income for the April-to-June period was $6 million, or 12 cents per share. That compares with net income of $78 million, or $1.68 per share. Excluding one-time items, Chiquita made 27 cents per share. Revenue fell 4 percent to $833 million.

Analysts expected 35 cents per share on revenue of $823.1 million.

Banana revenue fell 4 percent to $533 million and salad and healthy snack revenue was flat at $252 million.

The impact of the weaker euro alone hurt the company's revenue by $26 million, said outgoing CEO Fernando Aguirre.

The company said its board and Aguirre, who has been CEO for nearly nine years, agreed it is time to hire a new CEO. Aguirre will continue as CEO until his replacement has been found. He said he will remain one of the company's largest shareholders.

Chiquita is starting a cost-cutting plan aimed at saving $60 million annually by streamlining its administrative and manufacturing costs. The company plans to get rid of some senior management positions and spend less on research and development. Chiquita did not immediately return a query about how many jobs will be cut.

The cost-cutting plan should be mostly done by the next quarter. The company will take a charge of $15 million in the second half of the year, mainly due to severance costs.

Chiquita said in November that it will move its headquarters from Cincinnati to Charlotte, N.C. in a bid to save $4 million a year.

Shares ended the day up 17 cents, or 3.3 percent, at $5.28. The shares have traded between $4.62 and $10.57 in the past 52 weeks.

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