January 21, 2018 / 5:39 AM / a year ago

Saudi's Almarai Q4 profit down 4.3 pct, competition pressures prices

DUBAI, Jan 21 (Reuters) - Saudi Arabia’s Almarai, the Gulf’s largest dairy company, reported a 4.3 percent decline in fourth-quarter profit on Sunday due to tough market conditions that prevailed throughout 2017, missing some analysts’ estimates.

Almarai made a net profit of 513 million riyals ($136.8 million) in the three months to December 31, compared to a net profit of 536 million riyals in the year-earlier period.

SICO Bahrain had projected a net profit of 549.5 million riyals for Almarai and NCB Capital had forecast 531 million riyals.

Almarai said market competition has intensified leading to pressures on prices, but it protected its operating profit and its balance sheet with strict cost control and a reduced investment level. Almarai has lost access to the Qatari market since June after Saudi Arabia severed trade and travel links with its neighbour in the Gulf’s most severe diplomatic split in years.

The company said revenue declined 2.6 percent, mainly due to loss of sales in the Gulf states and export countries, though sales were partly compensated by poultry, dairy and cheese products.

$1 = 3.7498 riyals Reporting by Saeed Azhar; Editing by Tom Arnold

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