Campbell Soup earnings rise as expenses fall

CAMDEN, N.J. - November 23, 2009

Fast-rising costs of ingredients and packaging materials was a bedeviling problem for Campbell in 2008, but it now seems under control.

The company also raised its guidance for the current fiscal year, saying it expects its earnings per share to rise by 9 to 11 percent, up from 5 to 7 percent. Much of the improved outlook comes because of better currency exchange rates.

Its shares slipped 20 cents to $33.92 in morning trading.

Campbell reported net income of $304 million, or 87 cents per share, in the first quarter.

Revenue fell 2.1 percent to $2.2 billion with sales steady or down in categories from Prego pasta sauce to Pepperidge Farm cookies and crackers, but profit up in every division.

Last year, the company's first quarter earnings were $260 million or 70 cents per share. But the company says that profit figure included some one-time charges, including some related to closing facilities in Australia and Canada and restructuring management, that made it look worse than it was. The adjusted earnings per share number from last year is 76 cents.

Analysts expected a profit of 81 cents per share on revenue of $2.28 billion for the first quarter this year.

Sales of soup - a number closely watched by analysts - fell 3 percent. But the company notes that last year's first quarter was tough to match. Soup sales rose 12 percent in that quarter.

The company says its soup sales picked up at the end of the most recent quarter as more intense marketing efforts began.

The company, based in Camden, reported a strong start for its reformulated line of Chunky Soups. The male-oriented products received more vegetables and lean meats - nods to the women who most often do the grocery shopping.

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