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ConAgra Sees Higher Than Expected Profit

ConAgra Foodssaid Tuesday that fourth-quarter earnings would top its earlier forecast due to strength at its trading and merchandising unit, which has been sold.

ConAgra , whose shares rose 2.1 percent, did not give a new forecast for the quarter ended May 25. It only said earnings would be higher than the original range of 30 cents to 35 cents a share.

Analysts, on average, expected 36 cents per share, according to Reuters Estimates.

ConAgra also cited the overall performance of its food and ingredients segment and success in raising prices in its consumer foods segment, which includes Healthy Choice meals, Chef Boyardee pasta and Hebrew National hot dogs.

The company's trading arm has supported profits in recent quarters, but the unit's inherent volatility was a concern for investors. ConAgra sold it to an investor group for $2.8 billion.

The Omaha, Nebraska-based company must focus now on product innovation and improving brand recognition, according to Edward Jones analyst Matt Arnold.

"The main thing that they need to do is drive very strong results in the branded food division," Arnold said. "There's arguably a bit of work to be done there.

Admittedly, they're coming from a position that's not as strong as a lot of the other branded product companies." It plans to report fourth-quarter results on June 26.

Shares of ConAgra stood at $22.68, up 46 cents on the New York Stock Exchange, up 34 cents.