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Campbell Soup Posts Lower Earnings, Issues Warning

Sales of soups and sauces fell 51%.

Updated from 1:29 p.m. EDT

Shares of

Campbell Soup

(CPB) - Get Report

dipped to a new 52-week low Thursday after the company said sales of soups and sauces fell 51% in the fourth quarter.

The shares traded as low as $23.75, but recovered ending Thursday regular trading up 25 cents, or 1%, at $25.13.

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In a statement issued before markets opened, the food company also said that earnings will fall 6 to 8 cents below "current published estimates" in the coming first quarter. Those estimates are for earnings of 52 cents a diluted share, according to

First Call/Thomson Financial

.

For the fourth quarter ended July 30, net earnings were $59 million, or 14 cents a diluted share, compared to $121 million, or 28 cents a diluted share, in the comparable quarter last year. The reported numbers met the consensus expectations of analysts polled by First Call/Thomson Financial.

Net sales fell 8%.

After five years of relatively steady gains, Campbell's stock has been troubled since January 1999, when the company warned of an earnings shortfall as food companies faced bloated markets that constricted their ability to raise prices.

David W. Johnson, the company's chief executive, said the year's financial results "do not reflect the true potential of the brand power and people power."