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Smithfield Upbeat on 2011

Smithfield is sounding a cautiously optimistic tone for the next fiscal year, after narrowing its fourth-quarter loss.
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NEW YORK (TheStreet) -- Smithfield Foods (SFD) is sounding a cautiously optimistic tone for the next fiscal year, after narrowing its fourth-quarter loss.

"While the banner headline for fiscal 2011 is likely to be 'Hog Production has returned to profitability,' we are focused on continuing to maximize margins in our pork segment, leveraging our restructured pork group, and investing in strategic brands for top-line growth," the company's CEO C. Larry Pope said in a written statement.

He cautioned that raw material costs will be higher and there will be pressure on margins.

On Thursday, Smithfield reported fourth-quarter net loss of $4.6 million, or 3 cents a share; an improvement of $76.6 million, or 54 cents a share from the prior year. Excluding items, including an adjustment on derivative positions, and others items, earnings were 18 cents a share, compared with analysts' expectations of 16 cents a share.

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According to the company, comparative operating results improved in every segment during the quarter, with consolidated operating profit rising $131.2 million, or 143%, compared with a year ago. Sales for the fourth quarter were $2.9 billion, up 2%.

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-- Reported by Andrea Tse in New York

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