Kraft Foods profit climbs in third quarter

by Eric Schroeder
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NORTHFIELD, ILL. — Improved marketing and the launch of several successful new products helped spur a 22% increase in earnings at Kraft Foods Inc. in the third quarter. Net income in the period ended Sept. 30 totaled $922 million, equal to 52c per share on the common stock, up from $754 million, or 43c per share, in the same period a year ago.

Adjusted operating income in the third quarter was $1,810 million, up 12% from $1,613 million in the same period a year ago. Kraft said the gain was driven by effective management of input costs through pricing and productivity, favorable foreign currency and growth from volume/mix. The adverse effects of the Starbucks consumer packaged goods business and the timing of SG&A expenses partially offset the gains.

Net sales rose 12% to $13,226 million from $11,863 million. Organic net revenues climbed 8% to $12,691 million from $11,708 million, driven by a 7 percentage point gain from pricing and 1.4 points due to volume/mix.

“Our investments in marketing and new products continue to drive high quality growth and solid market shares,” said Irene Rosenfeld, chairman and chief executive officer. “And we’ve accomplished this despite having taken significant price increases to offset record-high input costs. Together with substantial savings opportunities, we expect to deliver top-tier results in 2011 and remain on track to launch two industry-leading companies with strong operating momentum in the coming year.”

Operating income within Kraft Foods North America totaled $1,035 million, up 3% from $1,002 million in the same period a year ago. Net sales rose to $6,133 million from $5,873 million.

U.S. Grocery operating income rose 20% to $292 million, while sales climbed 7% to $836 million.

Operating income of U.S. Snacks increased to $221 million, up 2% from $216 million in the same period of fiscal 2010. Sales, meanwhile, rose 5% to $1,579 million from $1,505 million.

In the company’s U.S. Convenient Meals division, operating income was $105 million, up 28% from $82 million, while sales rose 7% to $836 million from $806 million.

Kraft’s U.S. Beverage division, meanwhile, sustained a 23% decrease in operating income, which fell to $101 million from $131 million. Sales also were lower, falling to $681 million from $756 million.

Also finishing lower during the quarter was operating income for the company’s U.S. Cheese business, which fell 14% to $145 million from $169 million. Sales in the segment were $902 million, up from $863 million.

For the nine months ended Sept. 30, net income was $2,697 million, or $1.53 per share, down 25% from $3,574 million, or $2.10 per share, in the same period of fiscal 2010. Adjusted operating income for the nine months was $5,502 million, up 10% from $4,982 million a year ago. Net sales were $39,677 million, up 12% from $35,434 million.

Overall strong financial results prompted Kraft to raise its operating earnings per share guidance to at least $2.27 from its earlier forecast of $2.25. The company also revised its organic revenue guidance for 2011 to at least 6% from 5% previously.

“We’ve raised our outlook for the year due to the strong business momentum in each of our geographies,” said David Brearton, executive vice-president and chief financial officer. “While we expect strong operating momentum to continue, our earnings guidance excludes any potential impact from currency in the fourth quarter, as recent volatility has made such forecasts difficult.”

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