Campbell Soup

(CPB) - Get Report

beat analysts' lowered estimates by 2 cents for the first-quarter of fiscal 2001 despite a 13% slide in profits from a year ago due to an increase in marketing spending. The company had warned in September that first-quarter earnings would come in short of forecasts.

The famous soup-maker, based in Camden, NJ., said it earned $204 million, or 47 cents a diluted share, compared with $235 million, or 54 cents a share, in the same period a year ago. Analysts expected the company to earn 45 cents a share for the quarter, according to

First Call/Thomson Financial

.

Net sales in the quarter rose 1% to $1.8 billion.

The company also said it will purchase 11 million shares of its common stock under existing forward purchase contracts at a cost of approximately $521 million, while suspending its 2% annual share repurchase program. The purpose of the purchase contacts is to partially offset the company's equity exposure from its stock option program.