ConAgra profit beats Street

 @ibtimes
on December 21 2009 10:40 AM

ConAgra Foods Inc's quarterly profit topped expectations on Monday as increased marketing and product improvements boosted results from consumer foods, and the company raised its full-year outlook.

Shares of the maker of Chef Boy-Ar-Dee pasta and Banquet frozen dinners rose 3.2 percent to $22.88 in trading before the opening bell.

Net profit increased to $239.7 million, or 54 cents a share, in the second quarter that ended November 29 from $168.1 million, or 37 cents a share, a year earlier.

Excluding items, the profit was 52 cents a share, beating the analysts' average forecast of 47 cents, according to Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S.

ConAgra, like many packaged food makers, has benefited as consumers eat at home more often during the recession.

Some analysts, however, have cautioned that ConAgra had bought some of its volume gains with promotions that cut into actual prices consumers pay and that its brands are especially vulnerable to private-label competition.

Total sales fell about 2.4 percent to $3.17 billion. Analysts on average forecast $3.33 billion.

Profit in the company's consumer foods business rose 31.4 percent. Unit volumes in that business rose 2 percent.

ConAgra said it now sees full-year earnings approaching $1.73 a share, excluding one-time items. In September, it had forecast about $1.70, which is what analysts have been expecting.

(Reporting by Dhanya Skariachan, editing by Gerald E. McCormick and Lisa Von Ahn)

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