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Kellogg Guidance Poorly Received

Third-quarter earnings rose 11% from a year ago.
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said third-quarter earnings rose a better-than-expected 11% from a year ago on brisk cereal sales, but the stock inched lower due to some uninspiring guidance.

Kellogg earned $274.3 million, or 66 cents a share, in the quarter, compared with $247.0 million, or 59 cents a share, last year. Sales rose 7% from a year ago to $2.62 billion. Analysts had been forecasting earnings of 66 cents a share on sales of $2.58 billion in the most recent quarter.

The improvement looked attributable to the company's North American operations, where retail cereal posted year-over-year internal sales growth of 11% and retail snacks had sales growth of 6%. In its international segment, net sales rose 4% from a year ago, or 3% excluding currency translation.

For all of 2005, Kellogg put earnings at $2.32 to $2.34 a share, up from its previous estimate of $2.30 to $2.33 a share but below the Thomson First Call consensus of $2.37 a share. The company said fourth-quarter sales will rise from a year ago at a percentage in the mid-single-digits.

"Earnings growth in the quarter is expected to be flat to down slightly due to there being one less selling week in the period, continued significant investment in brand building, and investment in other growth initiatives," Kellogg said.

For 2006, Kellogg put earnings at $2.50 to $2.55 a share. The consensus estimate is $2.62 a share.

The shares fell 26 cents, or 0.6%, to $46.20 early Monday.