Kellogg Co. (K - Get Report) shares lost 5.6% in by the close of trading on Thursday after fourth-quarter earnings topped analysts' expectations but the cereal maker issued soft guidance for 2019.

The company said sales this year are expected to increase between 3% and 4% with adjusted operating profit expected to be about flat while adjusted per-share earnings are expected to decrease by 5% to 7%. Cash flow also is expected to be flat in 2019.

Analysts polled by FactSet expect the company to report earnings of $4.31 a share, which represents a 1.4% decline from earnings in 2018. Revenue is expected to increase 1.3%. 

"Our stabilization of a declining net sales trend and our improved in-market performance around the world are clear signs of this progress. This investment and progress will be evident again in 2019, setting us on a path for sustainable, profitable growth over time," said CEO Steve Cahillane.

The Battle Creek, Mich.-based company reported adjusted ourth-quarter earnings per share of 93 cents on revenue of $3.32 billion, a 5% increase year over year. Analysts, on average, were expecting the company to report earnings of 88 cents on revenue of $3.32 billion. On a non-adjusted basis, the loss in the quarter was 24 cents a share.

"2018 was an important year for us, in which we pivoted to growth after successfully reducing our cost structure in recent years," said Cahillane. "We still have a lot of work to do, but we have made great strides toward reshaping our portfolio toward growth, revitalizing key brands, and developing capabilities."