ConAgra profit tops Street estimates

Thu Jun 21, 2012 10:05am EDT

(Reuters) - ConAgra Foods Inc's (CAG.N) adjusted quarterly profit narrowly beat Wall Street estimates as price increases and easing commodity cost inflation boosted performance in its consumer foods segment.

The company, which released results from its fiscal fourth quarter on Thursday, also benefited from its recent acquisitions of National Pretzel Co, Del Monte Canada, Odom's Tennessee Pride and the pita chip business of Kangaroo Brands.

The consumer foods segment, which includes Banquet frozen meals, Chef Boyardee pasta and Hebrew National hot dogs, saw its profit grow as the acquisitions and price increases more than offset the impact of commodity cost inflation and sales volume declines that resulted from those price increases.

Commodity inflation in the quarter was 6 percent, ConAgra said, down from the double-digit rates seen earlier in the fiscal year.

Excluding one-time items, ConAgra's earnings from continuing operations for its fiscal fourth quarter ended May 27 were 51 cents per share, topping analysts' average estimate by a penny, according to Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S.

The company posted a net loss of $86.2 million, or 21 cents per share, due to a change in the way it accounts for pensions. A year earlier it reported a net profit of $250.1 million, or 61 cents per share.

Net sales rose 6.3 percent to $3.41 billion. Analysts expected $3.38 billion.

For fiscal 2013, ConAgra forecast adjusted earnings per share growth of 6 percent to 8 percent and operating cash flow in excess of $1.2 billion.

ConAgra shares rose 2.6 percent to $25.24 in early trading.

(Reporting By Martinne Geller in New York; Editing by John Wallace and Alden Bentley)

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