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* Q3 adj EPS $0.20 misses Wall St estimate of $0.25/shr
* Sees '12 EPS in middle of range, sales at low end
* Shares down 5.5 pct in premarket trade (Adds more details on outlook, byline)
By Martinne Geller
May 3 (Reuters) - Packaged food maker Sara Lee Corp reported lower-than-expected quarterly profit on Thursday and tempered its full-year outlook, helping to send shares down more than 5 percent in premarket trading.
Sara Lee said full-year earnings per share should fall in the middle of its forecast range of 89 cents to 95 cents per share. But net sales and operating income will be at the low end of their ranges, the company said.
Sara Lee also said it was on track to spin off its coffee and tea business into a separate company, to be called D.E. Master Blenders 1753, by June 30.
Earnings from continuing operations were $38 million, or 6 cents per share, in the fiscal third quarter ended on March 31, down from $124 million, or 21 cents per share, a year earlier.
Excluding items, the maker of Jimmy Dean sausages and Ball Park hot dogs earned 20 cents per share.
On that basis, analysts on average had been expecting 25 cents per share, according to Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S.
Net sales from continuing operations were $1.9 billion.
The company said 2012 net sales would be at the low end of its range of $7.9 billion to $8.15 billion, and adjusted operating income would be at the low end of its range of $875 million to $930 million.
Sara Lee shares fell to $21.10 in premarket trade from Wednesday's close on the New York Stock Exchange at $22.32. (Reporting By Martinne Geller in New York; Editing by Gerald E. McCormick, Dave Zimmerman)