Sysco Corp.

(SYY) - Get Report

Monday said its profit rose more than 15% in the fourth quarter, as the food distributor coped with higher costs and slowing sales.

The Houston-based company had net income of $280.6 million, or 43 cents a share in the quarter ended July 3, vs. $242.7 million, or 37 cents a share, in the year-ago period. Sales increased 16.7% to $8.14 billion, including sales from acquisitions. The 2004 quarter contained one more week than the year-ago one. The consensus estimate was for 45 cents a share, according to Thomson First Call.

The company said it was "able to generate solid sales and earnings numbers during the fourth quarter while competing in a market that can best be described as challenging." Sysco cited inflationary pressures, saying higher costs for dairy and meat products contributed to a sales slowdown during the quarter.

Looking ahead, Sysco estimated it will incur approximately an additional 4 cents to 5 cents a share in expenses, including depreciation of the first redistribution center, in its fiscal 2005 year. Analysts expect the company to earn $1.58 a share.

Shares fell 19 cents, or 0.6%, to $33.25 in premarket trading.