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ConAgra quarterly profit beats analysts' lowered expectations

March 20 (Reuters) - ConAgra Foods Inc's quarterly profit beat analysts' lowered estimates and the maker of Hunt's tomato ketchup and Slim Jim beef jerky maintained its full-year earnings forecast.

The company last month cut its fiscal 2014 profit forecast for the second time, blaming weak sales in its private-label business and a steeper-than-expected fall in sales of its own brands.

ConAgra said on Thursday revenue at its consumer foods business, which sells brands such as Chef Boyardee pastas and Reddi-wip whipped cream, fell 3.5 percent to about $1.87 billion in the third quarter, due to a 3 percent fall in sales volumes.

Sales in its private-label business more than doubled to $1.06 billion in the quarter, mostly due to its acquisition of store-branded foods maker Ralcorp Holdings last year.

Total revenue rose 14.5 percent to $4.39 billion.

ConAgra became the top U.S. producer of private-label foods when it bought Ralcorp for $5 billion in January last year.

The company's net income rose to $234.3 million, or 56 cents per share, in the third quarter ended Feb. 23, from $120 million, or 29 cents per share, a year earlier.

Excluding items, the company earned 62 cents per share.

Analysts on average were expecting a profit of 60 cents per share on revenue of $4.4 billion, according to Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S.

Analysts had previously estimated the company would report earnings of 66 cents per share, before the company pre-announced its third-quarter results in February.

ConAgra also re-affirmed its adjusted full-year profit forecast of $2.22-$2.25 per share. Analysts on average are expecting $2.34 per share.

ConAgra's shares were up 2 percent in light premarket trading on Thursday. The stock had closed at $29.59 on the New York Stock Exchange on Wednesday.

(Reporting by Shailaja Sharma in Bangalore; Editing by Saumyadeb Chakrabarty)

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