UPDATE 2-Campbell Soup profit beats as US soup sales rise

Fri Feb 14, 2014 1:14pm EST

Feb 14 (Reuters) - Campbell Soup Co, the world's largest soup maker, reported a higher-than-expected quarterly profit on strong soup sales, helped in part by cold weather and a later Thanksgiving in the United States.

Campbell's shares rose as much as 7 percent after the company also maintained its full-year sales forecast.

Campbell said a late Thanksgiving holiday last year pushed shipments to retailers into the second quarter ended Jan. 26.

The company also said that while the severe winter weather during the quarter helped soup sales grow, the recent storms also led to lost sales as retailers shut shops and Campbell was forced to close plants.

"We believe the weakness that Campbell and other food companies experienced in January was partially related to the extreme weather conditions, which dealt a blow to the U.S. economy," Chief Executive Denise Morrison said on a post-earnings call.

The company said soup consumption levels in the quarter were below shipments leading to higher inventory levels at retailers at the end of the second quarter.

Campbell has been facing stiff competition from private-label brands and smaller rivals and has had trouble attracting younger, more health conscious consumers to its canned soup offerings.

The company said it expected its U.S. soup business to be boosted this year due to eight new soups it launched last month, including its first Latin-inspired cooking soups and new varieties in its Healthy Request line.

Campbell maintained its full-year sales forecast of a 4-5 percent growth, which translates to sales of $8.37-$8.45 billion.

That is higher than analysts' average expectation of $8.34 billion, according to Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S.

Campbell's total sales rose 5.5 percent to $2.28 billion in the quarter ended Jan. 26. U.S. Soup sales rose 5 percent.

Net profit attributable to the company rose to $325 million, or $1.03 per share, from $190 million, or 60 cents per share, a year earlier.

Excluding items, the company earned 76 cents per share from continuing operations.

Analysts on average were expecting earnings of 73 cents per share on revenue of $2.27 billion.

Campbell's shares were up 4 percent at $42.57 in morning trading on the New York Stock Exchange. They touched a high of $43.70.