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JEDDAH, Saudi Arabia, Jan 19 (Reuters) - Saudi Arabian dairy and food producer Almarai Co posted a 29.2 percent rise in its fourth-quarter net profit, beating analyst forecasts, the firm said in a bourse statement on Saturday.
Almarai made a net profit of 369 million riyals ($98.4 million) in the three months ending Decmeber 31, compared with 286 million riyals in the same period a year earlier.
Six analysts polled by Reuters expected the firm to post on average 320 million riyals in the fourth-quarter.
"The reason for higher sales and profit growth for the fourth quarter compared to the corresponding period of the previous year is due to strong performance from all products, especially poultry and bakery," it said in the statement.
In a separate statement Almarai said it plans to issue a dividend of 1.25 riyals per share for the full-year period.
Operating profit rose 27.4 percent to 437 million riyals in the fourth-quarter.
Almarai has been keen to expand its footprint outside its core presence in the Gulf region. In December it acquired Fondomonte S.A., which owns and operates firms in Argentina, to secure feed for its dairy herd and poultry business. [ID:ID:nL6E7NL0CI]
In November Almarai said it plans to issue the second tranche of a riyal-denominated Islamic bond programme to private investors in the coming months. It raised 1 billion riyals through the first tranche in March in a deal taht was 4.7 times over subscribed.
Proceeds from the sukuk are seen helping finance Almarai's $4.2 billion investment programme, aimed to expand its business between 2013 to 2017. [ID:ID:nL5E8GT2TL] (Reporting by Asma Alsharif; Editing by Angus McDowall)