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ConAgra's Earnings More Than Double, But Fall Short

ConAgra (CAG) disclosed weaker-than-expected fiscal fourth-quarter profits on Thursday as the maker of Hunts ketchup and Pam cooking spray grapples with food inflation.

The Omaha-based food company said it earned $254.9 million, or 62 cents a share, last quarter, compared with a profit of $90.6 million, or 20 cents a share, a year earlier. Excluding one-time items, it earned 47 cents a share, trailing consensus calls by a penny.

ConAgra said sales increased 5.3% to $3.21 billion, narrowly topping the Streets view of $3.19 billion.

Underscoring the impact of rising prices, ConAgra said its consumer foods division incurred a 9% increase in the costs last quarter. Net prices were hiked in cooking oil-related products, frozen foods and snacks, such as Slim Jim and Peter Pan peanut butter.

Overall marketplace and economic conditions remain challenging, CEO Gary Rodkin said in a statement. High input costs and difficult economic conditions are expected to continue to create challenges in fiscal 2012; additional pricing actions are under way, and productivity initiatives should continue to be strong.

Looking ahead, ConAgra said it sees fiscal 2012 non-GAAP EPS rising in the low to mid-single digits, but remains committed to 6% to 8% long-term EPS growth. 

Disappointed by ConAgras results and the impact of inflation, shareholders sent the companys stock down 2.40% to $24.81 Thursday morning. The losses lower ConAgras 2011 gain to 12.6%.

Follow Matt Egan on Twitter @MattMEgan5