* Quarterly earnings of $0.44 a share before items; Wall St
* Raises fiscal 2013 profit view to $2.03-$2.06 a share from
* Shares up nearly 6 percent
By Martinne Geller
Sept 20 ConAgra Foods Inc reported
higher-than-expected quarterly earnings on Thursday, helped by
recent acquisitions and increased marketing, and the maker of
Chef Boyardee pasta raised its full-year forecast.
Shares of the company, which also makes Hebrew National hot
dogs and Banquet frozen meals, rose nearly 6 percent.
Criticized in the past for its large stable of second- and
third-tier brands, ConAgra has been acquiring new ones and
spending more to promote them. Its marketing investment rose by
a double-digit percentage rate in the latest quarter.
The company recently bought the Bertolli and P.F. Chang's
Home Menu frozen meals businesses from Unilever, as
well as National Pretzel Co, Del Monte Canada, Odom's Tennessee
Pride and Kangaroo Brands' pita chip business.
Speculation has surfaced recently over whether ConAgra has a
renewed appetite for private-label food maker Ralcorp Holdings
, which last year repeatedly rejected the company's
Activist investor Corvex Management called on Ralcorp in
August to sell itself, buy another company or change its
In ConAgra's first quarter, which ended on Aug. 26, net
income increased to $250.1 million, or 61 cents per share, from
$93.8 million, or 22 cents per share, a year earlier.
Excluding special items, mainly a gain from the change in
the market value of derivatives used to hedge commodity costs,
earnings were 44 cents per share. On that basis, analysts on
average were expecting 36 cents, according to Thomson Reuters
Net sales rose 6.7 percent to $3.31 billion. Analysts had
expected $3.24 billion.
At the consumer foods segment, the company's largest, sales
rose 8 percent as the effects of acquisitions and price
increases helped offset a volume decline and a hit from the
stronger U.S. dollar.
The commercial foods segment's sales increased 5 percent,
helped by a strong performance of the Lamb Weston potato
ConAgra said it expected a fiscal 2013 profit of $2.03 to
$2.06 per share. Its prior forecast called for growth of 6
percent to 8 percent from the $1.84 per share it earned in 2012,
or a range of $1.95 to $1.99.
The company also said cost inflation in its consumer foods
business would be slightly lower this year than originally
planned, with sales volume in that segment improving throughout
Shares of ConAgra were up 5.9 percent at $27.17 in trading
before the market opened.