Hershey (NYSE:HSY) posted a stronger-than-expected third-quarter profit and higher sales on Thursday, leading the candy maker to lift its fiscal 2012 sales forecast.
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Sales growth and, excluding the December 2011 Brookside acquisition, stronger volumes, helped propel earnings higher last quarter.
The company also gained 0.4 market share points in the chocolate sector with the help of core brands and new products.
The Hershey, Pa.-based maker of Reese’s Pieces and Kit Kat bars posted net income of $176.7 million, or 77 cents a share, down compared with a year-earlier $197 million, or 86 cents.
Excluding about $25.8 million in one-time charges, Hershey earned 87 cents, topping average analyst estimates in a Thomson Reuters poll by a penny.
“The Hershey Company delivered another good quarter of core brand growth driven by solid performance within key retail channels,” the company’s chief executive, John Bilbrey, said in a statement.
Sales for the three-month period ended Sept. 30 climbed 7.5% to $1.75 billion from $1.62 billion a year ago, matching the Street’s view.
Shares of Hershey fell about 1% Thursday morning to $69.39.
For the full-year, the chocolate maker sees non-GAAP earnings in the range of $3.22 to $3.25, bracketing the consensus’ $3.23. Hershey raised its fiscal 2012 sales-growth range between 14% and 15% from an earlier 12% to 14% increase.
The company on Wednesday raised its quarterly dividend by 10.5% to 42 cents from an earlier 38 cents, payable on Dec. 14 to shareholders of record on Nov. 23.
Hershey stands to gain in the current quarter from historically higher demand during Halloween and the holidays. Bilbrey said Halloween sales are off to a good start.