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Price hikes help lift Lancaster's 1Q profit 25 pct

COLUMBUS, Ohio -- Lancaster Colony Corp., which makes specialty foods, glassware and candles, said Thursday that price hikes helped lift its net income by 25 percent in its fiscal first quarter.

The performance topped Wall Street expectations, and the lightly-traded shares rose 70 cents, to $72.34.

For the three months ended Sept. 30, the Columbus, Ohio-based company said it earned $26.7 million, or 98 cents per share. That's compared with $21.3 million, or 78 cents per share, in the year ago period.

Net sales rose 6 percent to $291 million.

Analysts, on average, expected net income of 94 cents per share on sales of $288.1 million, according to FactSet.

Specialty foods net sales rose 5 percent to $249 million. The company said pricing contributed to nearly a third of the segment's sales growth, and new product introductions benefited retail sales. It also noted that lower costs for ingredients boosted profitability.

Sales of glassware and candles rose 12 percent to $42 million, reflecting volume growth.

In the second half of the fiscal year, however, the company said ingredient costs for the specialty foods segment "may turn unfavorable" in light of the drought that hit much of the country.

While the company expects to see first-quarter trends continue, CEO John Gerlach noted that the company remains "mindful that the general economic uncertainties facing both customers and consumers may challenge volumes."