Snacks, cereal help drive General Mills earnings

by Staff
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MINNEAPOLIS — New snack and cereal products such as chocolate Cheerios helped contribute to 15% growth in net earnings at General Mills, Inc. during the third quarter.

For the quarter ended Feb. 28, the company had net earnings of $332.5 million, equal to $1 per share on the common stock, which compared with $288.9 million, or 88c per share, during the same quarter of the previous year. Sales for the quarter were $3,629.1 million, up 3% from $3,537.4 million during the same quarter of the previous year.

“Results for the third quarter reflect continued good sales growth, margin strength and significant marketing reinvestment in our brands,” said Ken Powell, chairman and chief executive officer. “General Mills is on track to deliver excellent performance for the full 2010 fiscal year. As we move into the final quarter, our plans include strong levels of marketing reinvestment and targeted merchandising initiatives designed to fuel continuing growth for our brands in fiscal 2011.”

Operating profit in the U.S. Retail segment was $534.1 million, up 9% from $489.5 million during the same quarter of the previous year. Sales in the segment were $2,570.9 million, up 3% from $2,495.8 million during the same quarter of the previous year.

Operating profit in the International segment was $25.4 million, down 49% from $49.3 million during the same quarter of the previous year. Sales in the segment were $2,570.9 million, up 3% from $2,495.8 million during the same quarter of the previous year.

For the nine months ended Feb. 28, the company had net earnings of $1,318.6 million, or $4.01 per share, up 40% from $945.6 million, or $2.84 per share, during the same quarter of the previous year. Sales for the quarter were $11,226.1 million, up 2% from $11,045.6 million during the same quarter of the previous year.

The company also is raising its guidance for fiscal 2010 to a range of $4.57 to $4.59 per share, up from a previous guidance of $4.52 to $4.57.

“As we look forward to fiscal 2011, we will be building on a solid foundation,” Mr. Powell said. “Our market categories are growing. Our brand positions are strong, and we have a full line-up of product news and innovation planned for the year. Most important, we are running on a strong and sustainable business model. This gives us confidence in our prospects for continuing growth.”

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