Heinz 2Q profit falls, but sales improve

PITTSBURGH - November 24, 2009

But the maker of ketchup and Ore-Ida french fries, like most food companies, has benefited during the recession from consumers eating at home more often, sending sales higher.

Fluctuating commodity prices and the dollar's value have posed some challenges for the company's profitability. Still, Heinz raised its full-year earnings guidance, citing its strong results for the year's first half as well as the weakening dollar and plans to increase its marketing efforts.

Heinz boosted its marketing spending 14 percent during the quarter as it continued its push to increase sales of its core brands. Some shoppers have remained loyal to key basic brands they like during the recession - such as those of Heinz and J.M. Smucker Co. - even though many budget-conscious consumers have switched to low-priced cheaper store-brand items.

A weaker dollar also benefits companies like Heinz that derive much of their business from overseas, because sales translate back into more dollars.

Heinz earned $231.4 million, or 73 cents per share, for the three months ended Oct. 28. That's down from $276.7 million, or 87 cents per share, a year earlier.

The food maker said the prior year's results included a gain of 18 cents per share related to currency shifts.

Income from continuing operations slipped to $248.9 million, or 76 cents per share, from $281.8 million, or 86 cents per share.

Revenue climbed 2 percent to $2.67 billion from $2.61 billion on improved sales of its top 15 brands and growth in emerging markets.

Heinz, based in Pittsburgh, said it saw rising sales of nutritional beverages in India, as well as higher sales of ketchup and baby food in Latin America and Russia. Better pricing also boosted sales for the quarter.

The results topped the forecast of analysts polled by Thomson Reuters, who predicted a profit of 69 cents per share on revenue of $2.63 billion. These estimates generally exclude one-time items.

Heinz increased its earnings from operations outlook to a range of $2.72 to $2.82 per share for fiscal 2010. Its prior guidance was for earnings between $2.60 and $2.70 per share.

Analysts expect a full-year profit of $2.75 per share.

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