Hershey's ( HSY) third-quarter profit dropped amid charges related to a realignment plan, but sales rose, and the candy maker now expects full-year results to top its prior targets.

Hershey's earnings fell to $119.5 million, or 48 cents a share, from $166.2 million, or 66 cents a share, a year earlier. The results were weighed down by a charge of 27 cents a share related to the company's ongoing business realignment plan.

Excluding charges, Hershey's profit rose to $185.3 million, or 75 cents a share. The per-share results beat Thomson First Call's mean analyst estimate by a penny.

The Pennsylvania-based company's sales increased 9% to $1.37 billion from $1.25 billion a year earlier, aided by acquisitions. Excluding the impact of acquisitions, sales rose 6.5%, with gains in both the company's core confectionary business and new snack products, Hershey said.

"We're anticipating a solid fourth quarter, given the good start to the important seasonal period and the upcoming introduction of several new products, most notably Hershey's Kissables and Hershey's Kisses filled with peanut butter," said Richard Lenny, Hershey's chairman, president and chief executive, in a statement. "In addition, we expect to maintain effective cost controls across the business system, thereby yielding a gain in operating margins."

The company now expects 2005 sales to increase at a rate above its long-term goal of 3% to 4%, while earnings per share from operations should rise at a rate greater than the long-term range of 9% to 11%. For 2004, Hershey's full-year earnings from continuing operations were $2.06 a share, while sales came in at $4.43 billion. Analysts predict 2005 earnings of $2.35 a share and sales of $4.84 billion.

Looking ahead to 2006, Hershey said it plans to step up new product innovation. The company noted that it is dealing with higher product input costs, and said it is developing plans to address those cost pressures. However, the company said it expects sales and earnings growth for the year to be above its long-term targets.

Hershey shares recently traded at $59.44, down 5 cents.

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