ConAgra Profit Rises, But Forecast Lags Estimates

ConAgra Foods Thursday posted higher quarterly profit, helped by results from the commodities trading and merchandising unit that it sold earlier this week.

But the company also gave an earnings forecast for the current quarter and fiscal year that was below analysts' estimates.

The maker of Banquet frozen dinners, Egg Beaters and Orville Redenbacher's popcorn said profit rose to $201.3 million, or 41 cents a share, in the fourth quarter ended May 25 from $192 million, or 39 cents a share, a year earlier.

Excluding one-time items, earnings were 44 cents a share.

Analysts on average had forecast 36 cents, according to Reuters Estimates.

On Tuesday, ConAgra said that earnings would exceed its original forecast of 30 cents to 35 cents a share, largely due to profit at its trading and merchandising business.

The company completed the sale of that unit Monday as it looks to focus on consumer products and food service.

Sales rose 15.5 percent to $3.08 billion.

For the year, the company forecast earnings of $1.56 to $1.59 a share from continuing operations, while analysts on average were expecting $1.61.

ConAgra estimated first-quarter earnings of 26 cents to 28 cents a share, compared with analysts' forecasts of 33 cents.

The company's shares fell to $22.02 in premarket trading from Wednesday's New York Stock Exchange close of $22.15.