Madrid / ES. (epg) Net turnover of Spain’s Ebro Foods S.A. grew 22.5 percent, to EUR 845 million, boosted by the good performance of our brands, extension of our consolidated group to incorporate Tilda and increased demand as from mid-March. Tilda contributed EUR 54 million to that figure.
The adjusted Ebitda totalled EUR 106.4 million, up 26.4 percent year on year, with a 16.6 percent increase in CAGR over the past 3 years.
Net debt totalled EUR 985.5 million, EUR 14.3 million less than at year-end 2019. Working capital was EUR 43 million more than at year-end 2019, thanks to the positions taken in raw materials.
Rice: The principal commodity procurement agreements in Europe were negotiated at the beginning of the quarter, at a cost 6 percent higher than in the previous campaign. In aromatic rice, we closed the purchase of Basmati at prices almost 10 percent lower than last year, while market prices have been rising in the USA, up almost 35 percent since September 2019, as a smaller area has been sown. In Europe, the outbreak of Covid-19 in mid-March led to substantial sales growth in our branded products during the first week of self-isolation, with peaks of over 100 percent, although it levelled off over the following weeks. These spikes were especially sharp in Spain, Italy and France. Demand also soared in North America with growth rates of around 90 percent. We found it difficult to meet that increased demand in some products, for which we were close to maximum capacity. The Rice Division was able to deal with this situation thanks to adequate stocks, the outstanding efforts made by our team and optimisation of our production capacity. Apart from the effects of the coronavirus, the trends observed in earlier quarters continued in the categories of Aromatic, Instant and Microwave rice in North America, and in the premium segment in Europe. The division posted a turnover of EUR 483.7 million and adjusted Ebitda of EUR 61.3 million.
Pasta: The raw materials market grew in Europe, especially in Italy where local producers are opting to use national Italian wheat regardless of the quality or price of wheat from other countries, in line with the latest trends of «buy local and buy near». In North America, the market has remained very stable and sowing forecasts are especially high in Canada, so prices are not expected to rise. The Group has hedged its sourcing for the entire year. In this Division, the outbreak of Covid-19 also brought increased demand in March, with growth rates of almost 90 percent in Europe and Canada, and slightly lower growth in the USA because self-isolation began somewhat later there. Just as in the rice division, with the aim of maximising supplies, we have focused our production on our core products and have thus been able to meet the sharpest peaks. There has been less demand for fresh pasta, especially in the HORECA channel. The division posted a turnover of EUR 380.8 million and adjusted Ebitda of EUR 48 million.
A quarter marked by the strength and stability of business and social commitment
The consolidated results of the quarter largely reflect the success of our investment in 2019 in the acquisition of Tilda, which contributed EUR 7 million to our adjusted Ebitda, the positive effect expected on our CAPEX investments (EUR 408 million) in the past three years and the increase in sales sparked by the self-isolation measures in the last two weeks of March.
The outbreak of the coronavirus in March caused an unprecedented, very difficult situation worldwide. The Group is faring well in this new scenario thanks to the strength of our business model, our geographical diversification, our sound production capacity, our broad product portfolio, the high level of commitment of our team and our decision-making agility, which enables us to guarantee supplies of our products in all the countries in which we operate.
Covid-19 produced a positive impact on our sales in March, due to the strong demand for our products at the beginning of self-isolation. But we have also had increased operating costs, such as increased expenditure in occupational hazard prevention and personal protection equipment to guarantee the health of our workers, higher costs of logistics and auxiliary raw materials, extra cleaning and disinfection services and extra payments to our factory workers.
This sharp growth in demand eased off gradually as consumers began to lose their fear of food shortages and we are now returning to the normal sales trends for this time of year. In the current scenario it is difficult to foresee consumption trends. We are keeping an eye on any signs of change in our market.
The Group has also been cooperating in the social and health emergency situation arising as a result of the pandemic, setting different solidarity initiatives in motion in the different countries in which we operate. The amount assigned to the Ebro Foundation for Covid-related aid was thus raised by one million euros to EUR 1.6 million in Spain and we have supported different solidarity actions with financial and in-kind donations to organisations across Spain, France, Italy, USA, UK, India, Morocco, Netherlands, etc. Overall, the Social Responsibility actions headed by the Foundation and coordinated in the different countries in which we operate will amount to over EUR 5 million in 2020. It should also be noted that the company maintains its proposal for the payment of dividends, has no furlough plans and will contribute towards the creation of employment and recovery of the economy by accelerating our CAPEX.