Sara Lee Posts Loss, Hurt By Restructuring Costs

Sara Lee, the maker of Jimmy Dean meats and Sara Lee breads, posted quarterly earnings before items that beat analysts estimates, helped by strong sales in its international beverage, household and body care businesses.

Still, the company, which in September completed a major restructuring, posted a net loss, compared with a year-earlier profit, as it posted charges for job cuts and to write down the value of several assets, including its Brazilian coffee business.

Sara Lee in the past two years sold or spun off units, including the Hanesbrands apparel business, in order to focus on coffee and tea, deli meats, baked goods and European household products.

The company said its net loss was $62 million, or 8 cents a share, in the fiscal second quarter ended Dec. 30, compared with profit of $438 million, or 57 cents a share, a year earlier. Sara Lee posted a gain from discontinued operations in the year-earlier quarter.

Excluding one-time items, earnings were 17 cents a share. According to Thomson Financial, analysts, on average, expected Sara Lee to earn 16 cents a share on sales of $3.08 billion, in the latest period.

Sales rose about 7% to $3.2 billion. Volume, a measure of units shipped that factors out currency and price fluctuations, rose 2%.

Sara Lee also reduced its forecast for this year: the company expects fiscal 2007 earnings to be in the range of 58 cents to 64 cents a share, including items. Previously, the company had estimated earnings of 86 cents to 92 cents a share, including one-time items.

Analysts expect earnings will be about 82 cents a share, according to Thomson Financial. Analyst estimates typically exclude one-time items.

The company also forecast earnings for the year of 58 cents to 64 cents a share, with sales from continuing items up 5% to 6%.