May 8, 2013 / 2:15 AM / 4 years ago

UPDATE 3-Oreo maker Mondelez raises earnings outlook on tax benefit

4 Min Read

* Raises earnings goal to $1.55-$1.60/share from $1.52-$1.57

* Q1 revenue $8.74 bln vs Wall Street estimate of $8.68 bln

* Shares up 4 pct since Trian last month reported stake

* Mondelez CEO declines comment on shareholder moves

By Martinne Geller

May 7 (Reuters) - Packaged foods maker Mondelez International Inc posted slightly better-than-expected quarterly results on Tuesday and raised its full-year earnings forecast due to a benefit from a tax item, but said it was keeping some of that benefit in reserve to guard against future market volatility.

Quarterly revenue beat Wall Street estimates for the first time since Mondelez separated last year from Kraft Foods Group Inc and took with it snacks like Oreo cookies and Cadbury chocolate and the international business of Maxwell House coffee.

Still, revenue growth was below the company's long-term target, hurt by lower coffee prices, capacity constraints and the continued struggle of its gum business, and Chief Executive Irene Rosenfeld said she was "clearly not satisfied." Mondelez is seeking growth by reinvesting in emerging markets - where it gets 40 percent of its revenue - and by boosting brand-building, production capacity and distribution.

Mondelez shares fell 21 cents, or 0.7 percent, to $31.20 in after-hours trade. Through Tuesday's close they have gained 4 percent since last month when Trian Fund Management reported stakes in Mondelez and PepsiCo Inc. That prompted speculation that Trian's Nelson Peltz would push them to merge given his role in Kraft's purchase of Cadbury and subsequent breakup.

In an interview on Tuesday, Rosenfeld declined to comment on Peltz or any other shareholder, which, as of Dec. 31, also included Southeastern Asset Management and Bill Ackman's Pershing Square Capital Management.

Ackman is leading campaigns involving J.C. Penney Co Inc and Herbalife, while Southeastern is talking about teaming up with Carl Icahn to nominate directors at Dell , according to the Wall Street Journal.

"We certainly listen to all of our shareholders," Rosenfeld told Reuters, without saying whether she has recently met with any of them.

Coffee Prices, Gum

Weighing on the top line was coffee prices, which Mondelez lowered after a decline in the cost of the raw commodity, and production capacity constraints in India that prevented it from meeting the full demand for its chocolates. In addition, revenue for gum, which includes brands like Trident and Stride, fell at a "high teens" percentage rate in developed markets, the company said.

But after pruning slower-selling gum products and refocusing on more successful products, the company is seeing "green shoots" in its U.S. gum business, Rosenfeld said. In April, it gained 2 percentage points of market share, she said.

In the first quarter, net income was $568 million, or 32 cents per share. That was down from $813 million, or 46 cents per share, a year earlier, before the company spun off its stable of mature North American grocery brands into Kraft Foods.

Excluding items, earnings were 34 cents per share, topping analysts' average estimate by a penny, according to Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S.

Revenue rose nearly 1 percent to $8.74 billion, north of Wall Street's estimate of $8.68 billion.

Organic revenue, which strips out the impact of acquisitions, divestitures and other one-time issues, rose 3.8 percent in the quarter, below the company's long-term target of 5 to 7 percent growth.

Mondelez stood by its 2013 goal for revenue growth at the low end of its long-term growth target, and raised its earnings goal to $1.55 to $1.60 per share from a prior forecast of $1.52 to $1.57 per share.

The 3 cent increase is due to a 7 cent-per-share tax benefit. The company said it was holding the other half of the benefit "in reserve ... since it's still early in the year and considering the volatility in many of our markets."

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