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Del Monte Expects Drop in Earnings

June 25, 2004|From Times Wire Services

Del Monte Foods Co., the nation's largest maker of canned fruits and vegetables, said Thursday that its profit more than doubled in its fiscal fourth quarter but that its first-quarter earnings would be lower than last year because of higher energy costs and commodity prices.

Shares of the San Francisco-based firm fell 8.6% on the news, closing at $10.06 on the New York Stock Exchange.

Net income in the quarter ending Aug. 1 is expected to drop to 3 cents to 5 cents a share from 7 cents in the year-earlier period, Del Monte said. Sales in the quarter are expected to rise 2%.

For the fiscal 2004 fourth quarter ended May 2, the firm reported net income of $56.6 million, or 27 cents a share. That compares with the previous year's $23.5 million, or 11 cents. Del Monte said it sold more tuna and resumed selling infant food as a result of the 2002 purchase of some brands from H.J. Heinz Co. Sales in the quarter rose 21% to $915.9 million.

Results for both periods include adjustments related to the acquisition of Heinz's North American StarKist seafood, North American pet food and snacks, U.S. private label soup, College Inn broth and Heinz's U.S. infant food businesses.

The adjustments include integration costs and employee termination benefits. Excluding those costs, Del Monte said earnings came to 33 cents a share for the latest quarter, up from 21 cents a year earlier.

Analysts surveyed by Thomson First Call had forecast, on average, fourth-quarter earnings of about 33 cents a share.

Besides StarKist, Del Monte sells food under names such as Contadina and Nature's Goodness.

For its full 2004 fiscal year, Del Monte reported net income of $164.6 million, or 78 cents a share, up from $133.5 million, or 76 cents, the previous year. Net sales for the year rose to $3.13 billion from $2.09 billion.

*

Bloomberg News and Dow Jones/Associated Press were used in compiling this report.

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