ConAgra Foods Posts Double-Digit Comparable EPS Growth In Fiscal 2014 Third Quarter; Reaffirms Full Fiscal-Year EPS

ConAgra Foods, Inc., (NYSE: CAG) one of North America’s leading food companies, today reported results for the fiscal 2014 third quarter ended Feb. 23, 2014. Diluted EPS from continuing operations was $0.58 as reported for the fiscal third quarter vs. $0.28 in the year-ago period. After adjusting for items impacting comparability, current-quarter diluted EPS of $0.62 was 13% above the comparable $0.55 earned in the year-ago period. Items impacting comparability are summarized toward the end of this release and reconciled for Regulation G purposes on page 11.

Gary Rodkin, ConAgra Foods’ chief executive officer, said, “We are on track with our EPS projections for the second half of this fiscal year. As we have previously discussed, there are operating challenges that have impacted segment performance and overall EPS growth, but we are encouraged by some pockets of strength. This quarter we posted good sales and market share performances for some of our consumer brands, good international growth for our potato operations, and continued improvement in the operations and organization for our private brands. The synergies expected from the former Ralcorp businesses are coming in slightly ahead of plans, and we continue to make good progress on SG&A efficiency initiatives. We reaffirm our full year fiscal 2014 EPS guidance, and remain confident in our long-term strategy and outlook.”

Consumer Foods Segment Branded food items sold worldwide in retail channels.

The Consumer Foods segment posted sales of approximately $1.9 billion and operating profit of $266 million, as reported. Sales declined, as expected, reflecting a 3% volume decrease and flat price/mix. The impact of foreign exchange negatively impacted segment sales by 1%.
  • As previously discussed, some of the volume decline in the fiscal third quarter reflects business that occurred earlier than planned in the fiscal second quarter as part of holiday promotions and changes in customer inventory levels, thus a shift in timing.
  • Brands posting sales growth for the quarter include Bertolli, Hebrew National, Reddi-wip, Ro*Tel, Slim Jim, Swiss Miss, Wolf and others. More brand details are in the Q&A document accompanying this release.
  • As previously discussed, Healthy Choice, Orville Redenbacher’s and Chef Boyardee (which collectively have annual sales in excess of $1 billion) continue to face challenges and are posting substantial volume declines. The company has important product changes, in-store initiatives, and refinements to consumer communication under way, which are expected to gradually improve the volume and profit performance of these brands throughout fiscal 2015.

Operating profit of $266 million was 1% above year-ago amounts as reported. After adjusting for $4 million of net expense in the current quarter and $5 million of net expense in the year-ago period from items impacting comparability, current quarter operating profit of $270 million was in line with comparable year-ago amounts. While top-line challenges weighed on profitability, several factors favorably contributed to the quarter’s profit performance, including manageable inflation, supply chain productivity initiatives, lower incentive compensation, and a strong focus on other selling, general, and administrative (SG&A) related efficiencies. Advertising and consumer promotion costs declined $15 million year-over-year, reflecting a focus on efficiency.

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