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UPDATE 1-General Mills results miss as costs rise, US sales fall

Wednesday, 18 Dec 2013 | 8:46 AM ET

* Second-quarter adjusted profit/share $0.83 vs est. $0.88

* Sales fall to $4.88 bln vs est. $4.94 bln

* Expects 2014 profit at low end of $2.87-$2.90/shr forecast

* Shares down 2.7 pct premarket

Dec 18 (Reuters) - General Mills Inc reported lower-than-expected quarterly results as ingredient costs rose and U.S. sales of its ready-to-eat meals and ice cream fell, and it said full-year profit could come in at the lower end of its forecast.

Shares of the maker of Cheerios cereal and Progresso soups fell 2.7 percent in premarket trading on Wednesday.

The company said sales in its U.S. retail business, its largest by revenue, fell 1 percent in the second quarter ended Nov. 24 due to lower sales volumes.

Operating profit fell 6 percent as ingredient costs rose.

"The period included the highest quarterly input cost inflation we expect to see this fiscal year, and food and beverage industry sales in the U.S. and other developed markets slowed a bit during the quarter," Chief Executive Ken Powell said in a statement.

General Mills has been facing increasing competition from cheaper private label foods as consumers look for discounts amid lingering economic uncertainty.

The company's brands include Haagen-Dazs ice cream, Old El-Paso Mexican foods and Betty Crocker dessert mixes.

General Mills maintained its adjusted profit forecast of $2.87-$2.90 per share for the year ending May 2014, but said the impact of foreign currency could be greater than previously expected.

The possible devaluation of the Venezuelan bolivar was likely to reduce earnings to the lower end of its forecast range, the company said.

Net income rose to $550 million, or 84 cents per share, in the second quarter from $541.6 million, or 82 cents per share, a year earlier.

Excluding items, the company earned 83 cents per share.

Net sales fell slightly to $4.88 billion.

Analysts on average were expecting earnings of 88 cents per share on revenue of $4.94 billion, according to Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S.

The Minneapolis, Minnesota-based company's shares were trading at $48.25 before the bell. The stock closed at $49.58 on Tuesday on the New York Stock Exchange.

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