Dean Foods 1Q Profit Tops Street, Shares Rise

Dean Foods (NYSE:DF) released first-quarter earnings Tuesday that blew away Wall Street’s expectations, leading the largest     U.S. dairy processor to boost its full-year view.

Dallas-based Dean Foods saw its stock soar 10% in the wake of the results and bullish outlook.

The company said it earned $25.3 million, or 14 cents a share, last quarter. That marks a 41% drop from the year-earlier period’s $43.2 million, or 24 cents a share. Analysts had been calling for EPS of just 6 cents.

Sales increased 3% to $3.05 billion, coming in just shy of the Street’s view of $3.05 billion. Dean Foods said it was able to pass through higher overall dairy commodity costs.

“Overall, the business is off to a stronger start than we had anticipated and we are somewhat encouraged as we look to the balance of the year,” CEO Gregg Engles said in a statement. “While we have a long way to go at Fresh Dairy Direct-Morningstar, I am cautiously optimistic that the trajectory of our business is upward and that we are on a path for continued progress as we move through the balance of the year.”

Looking ahead, Dean Foods said it sees non-GAAP earnings of 15 cents to 20 cents for the current quarter, compared with consensus calls for just 13 cents.

For fiscal 2011, the company now sees non-GAAP EPS of 67 cents to 75 cents. Even the low end of that new range would significantly beat the Street’s estimates for 58 cents.

Shareholders cheered the news from Dean Foods, bidding the stock 9.74% higher to $12.05 ahead of Tuesday’s open. The stock had already been up 24% on the year as of Monday’s close.