(Feb. 26, 1:35 p.m.) Fresh Del Monte Produce Inc. capped a year of financial gains with a record-breaking fourth quarter.

The Coral Gables, Fla.-based company reported Feb. 26 that net sales for the quarter increased 15% to $848.2 million. Net income for the period was $34.4 million, compared to a net loss of $58.8 million during the same period in 2006.

Executive vice president and chief financial officer John Inserra said during a conference call that the company’s sales benefited from increased prices for pineapples, melons and bananas and favorable foreign exchange rates. He also said income was boosted by the sale of nonperforming assets.

Vice president of marketing Dennis Christou said the specifics of the sale had not been released pending a filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission.

Net sales for the year increased 5% to $3.2 billion. Net income, Inserra said, increased to $179.8 million, compared to a net loss of $142.2 million in 2006.

Chairman and chief executive officer Mohammad Abu-Ghazaleh said he was proud the company was able to achieve its best fourth quarter ever despite significant increases in the costs of production, procurement and distribution.

He said one important factor in the fourth-quarter performance was the addition of expanded fresh-cut business with key retailers, who he did not name, in the Midwest and Northeast.

Net earnings per share were 68 cents for the quarter, compared to a loss of three cents per share in the year ago period. For the year, earnings per share were $3.22, compared to 10 cents in 2006.