(Adds company comments, Kellogg price increase)
CHICAGO Jan 9 General Mills Inc (GIS.N) said
on Friday December sales rose, helped by stronger results at
its Betty Crocker and Pillsbury baking units, underscoring the
trend of consumers eating at home more often during tough
But the company stopped short of raising its 2009 sales and
earnings forecasts, during a presentation to analysts.
General Mills, which also makes Cheerios cereal and Yoplait
yogurt, still expects to earn $3.83 to $3.87, excluding
one-time items, for the current fiscal year ending in May,
Chief Financial Officer Don Mulligan said.
Analysts on average forecast earnings of $3.94 a share,
according to Reuters Estimates.
Some analysts think the company is being conservative with
its forecast. But J.P. Morgan analyst Terry Bivens said earlier
this week that General Mills was more likely to raise its
earnings forecast at an analyst conference next month.
The company left its sales growth forecast unchanged at a
mid-single digit percentage range or higher, Mulligan said.
General Mills shares were down 14 cents at $58.37 on Friday
on the New York Stock Exchange.
Besides the at-home dining trend, sales have also been
helped by price increases, which General Mills and other food
makers implemented to cope with soaring costs for wheat, energy
and other commodities.
While those costs have declined from historic highs last
year, food companies say the costs are still well above
General Mills has said its energy, ingredient and supply
chain costs costs would be up 9 percent in fiscal year 2009.
On Thursday, rival cereal maker Kellogg Co (K.N) said it
would push through low-to-mid single digit price increases on
most of its cereals, effective Jan. 18.
A General Mills spokeswoman on Friday declined to comment
on her company's future pricing plans, citing company policy.
(Reporting by Brad Dorfman; Editing by Derek Caney)