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Nabisco Holdings Tops Estimates by 2 Cents

Its cookie and cracker business had a strong showing.
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Nabisco Holdings

(NA)

, the food conglomerate being

pursued by takeover artist Carl Icahn, posted earnings that beat Wall Street's expectations by 2 cents on a strong showing from its cookie and cracker business.

Nabisco Holdings, which makes snacks such as Oreo cookies, Ritz crackers and Life Saver candies, reported first-quarter net income that rose to $60 million, or 22 cents a diluted share, from $45 million, or 17 cents a share, a year earlier. That beat the 20-cent consensus estimate of analysts polled by

First Call/Thomson Financial

.

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Revenue for Nabisco Holdings, based in Parsippany, N.J., rose to $2.07 billion from $1.86 billion a year ago.

Nabisco Group Holdings

(NGH)

, which owns an 80.6% stake of Nabisco Holdings, said that for the first quarter ended Mar. 31, net income rose to $45 million, or 14 cents a diluted share, from $35 million, or 11 cents a diluted share, a year earlier. The figures from both periods exclude special items.

"Our NGH board asked us to review the full range of alternatives that could maximize shareholder value," said James Kilts, president and chief executive of Nabisco, in a statement. "Together with our financial advisors, we have begun this process. At the appropriate time, our NGH board will review the alternatives."

Nabisco Group has said it is exploring a possible sale of the entire company or its 80.6% stake in Nabisco Holdings.

Kilts did not indicate the board's current thinking on Icahn's bid earlier this month to buy Nabisco Group Holdings for $16 a share, though on Apr. 5 the board sent Icahn a letter acknowledging a bid and inviting him to bring it to the company's bankers. That was more amicable than Nabisco Group's flat-out rejection of an earlier bid by Icahn to buy a 30% stake in the company for $13 a share.

Shares of Nabisco Group were up 11/16, or 5%, to 13 9/16 in midday trading Wednesday, while shares of Nabisco Holdings rose 3/4, or 2%, to 38 1/8.