(By Balaseshan) ConAgra Foods Inc. (NYSE:CAG) reported stronger-than-forecast quarterly earnings helped by sales growth at its consumer and commercial food segments and the company raised earnings forecast for 2013, sending its shares up 5.07 percent in premarket.
On an adjusted basis, earnings per share from continuing operations for the first quarter jumped 42 percent to 44 cents, topping market expectations of 36 cents. The company posted a 177 percent surge in EPS from continuing operations to 61 cents on a net basis from 22 cents in the the year-ago quarter.
Total sales rose 6.7 percent to $3.31 billion, coming in above expectations of a 5.5 percent growth. Sales at the company's consumer and commercial food segments advanced 8.0 percent and 4.6 percent, respectively.
Looking ahead for fiscal 2013, ConAgra now expects adjusted EPS of $2.03 to $2.06, while Street analysts predict $1.98. Previously, the company had predicted earnings growth of 6 percent to 8 percent over the comparable EPS base of $1.84 in fiscal 2012.
ConAgra continues to expect operating cash flow in excess of $1.2 billion for the fiscal year. The company projects its operating capabilities, strategic initiatives, and prudent capital allocation to continue to drive good underlying performance for the remainder of fiscal 2013.
Relative to the strong year-over-year EPS growth for the first quarter, the balance fiscal quarters of fiscal 2013 are expected to show more modest rates of comparable year-over-year EPS growth, reflecting more difficult year-over-year comparisons as well as continued increases in marketing investment.
In a separate release, ConAgra's board approved an increase in quarterly dividend from $0.24 to $0.25 per share for the payment to be made on December 4 to stockholders of record on October 31.
The Omaha, Nebraska-based company's brands include: Alexia, Banquet, Lamb Weston, Healthy Choice and Snack Pack, among others.
The stock, which has been trading in the 52-week range between $22.39 and $27.34, ended Wednesday's regular trading at $25.65.