ConAgra Forecast Lags Estimates, Shares Fall

ConAgra Foods forecast earnings below analysts estimates and said it shipped fewer products in its key consumer foods segment, sending shares to their lowest level in more than two years.

The disappointing forecast came despite higher quarterly profit that was largely helped by the commodities trading and merchandising unit that it sold earlier this week.

Investors are focused on the company's consumer foods unit, where revenue fell short of expectations, said J.P. Morgan Securities analyst Terry Bivens in a note to investors.

"Of concern was an overall volume dip of 1 percent ... excluding some items affecting comparability, on pricing of 5 percent," he wrote.

For the year, the maker of Banquet frozen dinners, Egg Beaters and Orville Redenbacher's popcorn forecast earnings of $1.56 to $1.59 a share from continuing operations, while analysts on average were expecting $1.61.

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

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 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.