Former Metro CFO hired by George Weston Ltd.

2/21/2012

Food producer George Weston Ltd.  announced Tuesday it has hired Richard Dufresne as its new chief financial officer, a day after Dufresne resigned as the top finance executive at rival Metro Inc.

Dufresne joins George Weston, owner of Canada's largest chain Loblaw, after six years at Montreal-based Metro. He will step into the new role on March 26.

``Richard is a hands-on and an extremely qualified finance executive. With his extensive experience and proven track record of success as a CFO, we believe he will make a substantial contribution to the company and will be a welcome addition to our executive team,'' George Weston president Pavi Binning said in a statement.

The company had been searching for a new chief financial officer since Binning–the former CFO–was made president last July.

George Weston is due to report its fourth-quarter and year-end earnings March 1.

In its last report in November, the baked goods and grocery giant turned in a big rise in profit that beat analyst expectations.

The Toronto-based company said net earnings attributable to shareholders soared 50 per cent to $264 million or $1.94 per share, compared with $176 million or $1.26 in the same 2010 period.

Revenue for the three months ended Oct. 8 was $10.06 billion, up from $9.8 billion in the prior-year period, which ended Oct. 9.

The increase was primarily due to improvements in the performance of its two operating segments, Weston Foods and Loblaw.

George Weston, controlled by the Weston family, is a fresh and frozen baked-goods company that owns brands like Wonder and D'Italiano breads. George Weston also owns about 63 per cent of Loblaw.

Like others in the food business, George Weston Ltd. has been facing increases in raw material and others costs and started charging 3.5 per cent more last spring.

In the first half of 2012, higher commodity and input costs are expected to continue to put pressure on operating margins, indicating that further price increases may be in the offing.

Economists have estimated Canadians will be paying between five and seven per cent more for groceries on average by the end of the year, due to poor crops around the world, more farmers selling their corn for ethanol fuel rather than food and the effect of the economic recovery driving prices higher.

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