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Chiquita Loses $67M In Q3, New CEO Stays The Course

Julie Rose

Chiquita Brands International announced a $67 million third-quarter loss Wednesday, but the company's new CEO Ed Lonergan  said that was better than he expected in a year beset with relocation expenses and volatility in European markets.  It was Lonergan's first earnings announcement since being hired last month to replace Fernando Aguirre. 

'Let me explain why I'm excited to join this company," he began. "Chiquita serves a noble purpose in this world. Consumers enjoy our fresh fruits and salad projects, and importantly those products are good for them as well. In a world where companies are scrambling to develop products that taste good and are healthy, we already possess those attributes in our core."

Presumably Lonergan's been studying the dictionary of banana terminology presented to him by Chiquita board members his first week on the job.

Analysts following Chiquita are eager to see how closely Lonergan will stick to the previously-announced restructuring plan, which is designed to get the company back on solid ground. It includes some 300 job cuts, which Lonergan says have already been made (about 15 of them here in Charlotte).  And the plan focuses Chiquita on its core businesses: pre-packaged salads – and bananas, of course.

"I fully support that plan," said Lonergan. "I should also say that having talked to most key customers and suppliers in my first month with the company, they also are excited to see Chiquita refocusing on our core and driving efficiencies in our business."

Lonergan says last quarter's $67 million loss was better than he'd expected, considering lower euro exchange rates and higher fuel costs. Chiquita reconfigured shipping operations to limit that damage, but net banana sales were still down 2 percent.  

Expenses related to Chiquita's move to Charlotte and severance payments also contributed to the quarterly loss.