Specialty food company McCormick & Co. Inc. (MKC) is slated to release its first-quarter earnings before the market opens Tuesday. On average, nine analysts surveyed by Thomson Reuters expect the company to post earnings of $0.44 per share, with estimates ranging between $0.42 and $0.46 per share, on revenues of $755.41 million, which represents a 4.3% growth from last year. Analysts' estimates typically exclude special items.

In the same quarter previous year, the spice company had recorded earnings of $51.42 million or $0.39 per share, including restructuring charges, and adjusted earnings of $0.41 per share, on revenues of $723.95 million.

The company in mid-February had reaffirmed its fiscal year 2009 earnings guidance in the range of $2.24 to $2.28 per share, including $0.05 per share impact of charges from its restructuring program. On a comparable basis, excluding restructuring charges and unusual items, the earnings forecast for the year represents an increase of 7% to 9% over the previous year.

While announcing the fourth-quarter results back in January, the company said it was expecting 2% to 4% rise in 2009 sales despite unfavorable currency exchange rates that are expected to lower sales by 7%. In local currency, sales are projected to grow 9% to 11%.

Alan Wilson, McCormick President and Chief Executive Officer earlier said, We will continue to face challenges in 2009. However, the strength of our brands, momentum behind marketing and product innovation, improvements in our supply chain and a sound balance sheet give us confidence that McCormick is well-positioned for growth in 2009 and beyond.

The Wall Street analysts currently expect the company to earn $2.30 per share for the year, in a range between $2.22 and $2.32 per share, on sales of $3.30 billion.

Brokerage Credit Suisse expects McCormick to post fiscal 2009 earnings of $2.31 per share, which was lifted in January from their previous estimate of $2.20 per share.

In the year 2008, the company's net income was $255.8 million or $1.94 per share, and adjusted earning were $2.14 per share on net sales of $3.18 billion.

According to Research and Markets, the spice and extract manufacturing industry's revenue for the year 2008 was approximately $7.0 billion, with an estimated gross profit of 33.08%. The total domestic demand for the industry was valued at $7.6 billion, adding import value to and subtracting export value from the industry's shipment value.

The company in January had said that its cost reduction goal for 2009 is $30 million, with an estimated $9 million of savings related to the restructuring program and the balance largely related to supply chain initiatives. By the end of the year, the company expects to complete its restructuring program, and also plans to increase marketing support by at least 20% in 2009 with a large amount of the increase due to the addition of Lawry's.

In its preceding fourth quarter, McCormick reported that net income declined to $82.5 million or $0.62 per share from $87.6 million or $0.67 per share in the previous year, hurt by a non-cash impairment charge and restructuring charges, while sales grew 5% from the earlier year to $906.9 million. Adjusted earnings were $111.2 million or $0.84 per share, higher than $97.7 million or $0.75 per share in the prior-year quarter.

Among peers, International Flavors & Fragrances, Inc. (IFF), a flavors and fragrance products manufacturer, in early February reported that its fourth-quarter net income rose 4% year-over-year to $48.96 million or $0.62 per share, aided by tax benefits from prior years' tax settlements. On an adjusted basis, net income was $40 million or $0.50 per share, down from $43 million or $0.53 per share in the year-ago quarter. The New-York based company's consolidated net sales declined 3% from last year to $539.10 million.

McCormick on March 10 had announced that it would amend its policy regarding the personal use of corporate aircraft on April 1, to provide that the company will no longer provide its executive officers with a gross-up to cover the individual income tax incurred when the corporate aircraft is used for personal purposes, including spousal travel on business trips.

MKC, which has moved in a 52-week range of $28.21 - $42.06, closed Monday's regular trading session at $33.44, up $0.96 or 2.96%, on a volume of 1.2 million shares.

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