Equatorial Palm Oil First-Half Loss Narrows As Ebola Hits Operations

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LONDON (Alliance News) – Equatorial Palm Oil PLC Monday said its pretax loss in the first half of the year was in line with expectations after the Ebola crisis had a significant impact on its operations but said it is still in a strong position to carry out its strategy. For the first half of the financial year ended March 31, the palm oil producer reported a pretax loss of USD439,000, which is narrower than the USD745,000 loss reported a year earlier as the company cut its administrative expenses to USD458,000 from USD628,000. Equatorial said the loss was "in line with expectations".

Equatorial also made a smaller operating loss from its joint ventures of USD245,000 from USD323,000, whilst interest income rose to USD230,000 from USD206,000 and other income totalled USD34,000 from none a year earlier.

The company does not yet generate any revenue and said the Ebola crisis had a "significant impact" on its operations in the period due to the restriction of movement in Liberia until March. The company noted that the country has now been declared Ebola-free.

"Despite the stringent precautions taken and avoidance of the Ebola virus at our estates, the Ebola crisis had a significant impact on the operations at our concessions due to restrictions on the free movement of people implemented by the government of Liberia in order to contain the virus and closure of the schools we operate on our estates, which were only reopened on March 23," it said in a statement.

The company said it is in a strong position and well-funded to pursue its long-term strategy of becoming a leading producer of palm oil in West Africa.

"The key to the real growth of our business going forward is to strive to consistently plant up to 3,000 hectares each year. I have the utmost confidence in the senior management team of Liberian Palm Developments Ltd to drive forward this major objective and to deliver value and growth to shareholders," said Equatorial.

Liberian Palm Developments is the joint venture company in Liberia, which is 50% owned by Equatorial and 50% owned by Kuala Lumpur Kepong Berhad.

Equatorial Palm Oil shares were down 2.1% to 3.55 pence per share on Monday morning.

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