ConAgra profit falls 42% in second quarter

by Eric Schroeder
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OMAHA — Wheat market dynamics and inflation in the company’s Consumer Foods segment bogged down quarterly earnings at ConAgra Foods, Inc. Net income in the first quarter ended Aug. 28 was $85.3 million, equal to 21c per share on the common stock, down 42% from $146.4 million, or 33c per share, in the same period a year ago. Sales for the quarter were $3,072 million, up 10% from $2,804.3 million during the same quarter of the previous year.

“Despite a very challenging environment and high inflation, we delivered accelerating price/mix contribution and robust cost savings,” said Gary Rodkin, chief executive officer. “The first-quarter e.p.s. reflects the negative impact of short-term wheat market dynamics in our Commercial Foods segment and severe inflation in our Consumer Foods segment. We took pricing actions in the first quarter in both of our operating segments, and more pricing actions will soon be implemented in both segments. Our e.p.s. goal for the full year remains unchanged.”

The Consumer Foods segment had an operating profit of $196.2 million, down 6% from $207.7 million during the same quarter of the previous year. Sales in the segment were $1,891.7 million, up 4% from $1,811.5 million.
ConAgra said several brands posted sales growth during the quarter, including David, Healthy Choice, Hebrew National, Manwich, Marie Callender’s, Orville Redenbacher’s, Pam, Parkay, Peter Pan, Reddi-wip, Slim Jim, Swiss Miss and Wesson.

The Commercial Foods segment posted operating profit of $97.5 million, down 14% from $113.1 million during the same quarter of the previous year. The segment had sales of $1,180.3 million, up 19% from $992.8 million.

“The sales increase largely reflects the pass-through of higher year-over-year wheat costs in the form of higher flour prices for the milling operations,” ConAgra said. “The sales performance also reflects Lamb Weston’s price increases, which were necessitated by higher input costs and volume gains. Lamb Weston’s price/mix is expected to continue to improve throughout the balance of the year.”

The company said it continues to expect its full-year adjusted diluted e.p.s. to grow at a low- to mid-single digit rate over the comparable $1.75 earned in fiscal 2011.
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