Kraft Foods Inc posted a higher-than-expected quarterly profit as it showed improvement in legacy businesses like beverages in the United States, while absorbing recently acquired chocolate maker Cadbury Plc.
But the largest North American food maker also forecast full-year earnings below analysts estimates, highlighting concerns investors have over how easily Cadbury can be folded into Kraft to create the world's largest confectionery group.
Underlying results look pretty good, Morningstar analyst Erin Swanson said. That said, we continue to believe that the firm faces a bumpy road ahead with the integration of Cadbury.
Kraft shares rose five cents to $29.26 in after-hours trading on Thursday.
Earlier this year, Kraft bought Cadbury for $18.4 billion after a hostile takeover battle. In March, Kraft completed the $3.7 billion sale of its pizza business to Nestle that helped fund the Cadbury deal.
I honestly don't think the market is focused on 2010 anyway, Edward Jones analyst Matt Arnold said. That's not an important piece of the Kraft story right now.
Instead, investors are focusing more on what kind of profit and sales increases the company can post in 2011 and beyond, he said.
For 2011, the company said organic revenue -- excluding divestitures, currency fluctuations and smaller acquisitions -- would meet its long-term target for a rise of at least 5 percent.
Kraft, which makes brands ranging from Oreo cookies to Oscar Mayer lunch meat, said profit before items was 49 cents a share in the first quarter, up 19.5 percent from a year earlier. Analysts on average forecast 45 cents, according to Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S.
Reported profit was $1.89 billion, or $1.16 a share, including discontinued operations and other items.
Sales rose 7.3 percent to $11.32 billion, above the average analyst estimate of $10.95 billion.
U.S. beverage sales rose 4.9 percent in the quarter, while sales of convenience meals rose 4.8 percent.
For 2010, the company forecast earnings of $2 a share before one-time items, below analyst estimates of $2.06 a share compiled by Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S.
Earlier on Thursday, Sara Lee Corp , which competes with Kraft in some segments like lunchmeat, posted higher operating profit and flat sales for the quarter.
(Reporting by Brad Dorfman; Editing by Steve Orlofsky, Bernard Orr)