(Adds CEO comment, detail on sugar and ethanol prices, performance of rivals)
By Sybille de La Hamaide
PARIS, June 9 (Reuters) - French sugar group Tereos on Tuesday posted a 90 percent drop in annual profit due to a sharp drop in sugar and ethanol prices but said it expected its results to stabilise next season, helped by its international activities.
World sugar prices hit multi-year lows in the past year, particularly in Europe, where higher imports cleared by the European Union have lead to a glut in stocks. Ethanol prices were hurt by a falling global crude oil market.
“This inevitably impacted our performance,” Tereos CEO Alexis Duval told reporters.
Tereos said net profit in the year to March 31 had fallen to 17 million euros ($19 million) from 176 million in 2013/14, the lowest level since 2009/10, CEO Alexis Duval said.
Sales fell to 4.3 billion euros in 2014/15, down from 4.7 billion euros in 2013/14. Adjusted earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortisation (EBITDA) shed 35 percent in 2014/15 to 453 million euros.
Volumes produced rose in all its three key sectors, however, with 3.9 million tonnes of sugar produced, up 4.3 percent, 1.9 million cubic metres of alcohol and ethanol, up 16.5 percent and 2.1 million tonnes of starch products, up 10 percent.
Sugar prices continued to fall since the end of March and Duval did not anticipate a rebound by the end of its 2015/16 fiscal year, which should hit the group’s sugar business next season.
However, he was confident that an anticipated boost in output at starch plants in Brazil, Indonesia and China and a cost-cutting plan would allow earnings to stabilise.
“In total we expect a year pretty similar to this one,” Duval said, adding that he expects the operating margin to remain at 10.5 percent, down from 15 percent in 2013/14.
Other European sugar groups have been hit by difficult conditions in the sugar and ethanol markets.
Suedzucker, Europe’s largest sugar refiner, reported a 93 percent drop in annual net profit last month.
Duval said Tereos was still interested in a merger with French competitor Cristal Union ahead of the liberalisation of the EU market in 2017. The cooperative rejected initial offers earlier this year, saying it had the means to go it alone.
The end of the EU quotas would mean higher exports. Tereos intends to expand its trading unit Tereos Commodities, which will also sell Brazilian and African sugar in addition to European.
$1 = 0.8877 euros Reporting by Sybille de La Hamaide; editing by David Clarke and Louise Heavens