Del Monte Foods ( DLM) posted a drop in fourth-quarter profit amid charges associated with its purchase of several H.J. Heinz ( HNZ) food brands.

In the quarter ended April 27, the company earned $23.5 million, or 11 cents a share, compared with $47.5 million, or 30 cents a share, in the previous-year quarter. On a pro forma adjusted basis, the company said it earned $44.6 million, or 21 cents a share, matching analysts' consensus estimate, compared with $41.2 million, or 20 cents a share, in the year-ago period.

Revenue was $776 million on a generally accepted accounting basis, compared with $498.4 million in the year-ago fourth quarter.

Del Monte said since the close of the H.J. Heinz merger, it has paid down debt by more than $150 million and increased its cash balance by about $30 million. In the merger, Del Monte acquired the North American StarKist seafood, North American pet food and pet snacks, U.S. private label soup, College Inn broth and the U.S. infant feeding brands on Dec. 20, 2002.

The company reiterated its guidance for 2004 of 88 cents to 92 cents a share, ahead of analysts' consensus estimate of 85 cents a share. Including items, the company expects to earn 80 cents to 84 cents a share. Merger-related, integration and restructuring expenses for 2004 are expected to be about $26 million, or $17 million net of taxes.

Shares of the San Francisco-based company were recently up 2.8% at $9 in morning trading.

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