Hershey Topples Estimates as 1Q Profit Sweetens

Benefiting from its launch of new candies and widened presence abroad, Hershey (NYSE:HSY) cooked up on Tuesday a stronger-than-expected 8.6% jump in first-quarter profit.

The Hershey, Pa.-based maker of chocolate and confectionery products posted net income of $160 million, or 70 cents a share, compared with $147.4 million, or 64 cents a share, in the same quart last year.

Excluding one-time costs, the maker of Kisses and Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups earned $166.2 million, or 72 cents a share, narrowly ahead of average analyst estimates polled by Thomson Reuters of 70 cents.

Revenue for the three-months ended April 3 was $1.56 billion, up from $1.41 billion a year ago, trumping the Street’s view of $1.48 billion.

"Hershey’s first-quarter results represent a good start to the year, and we maintained our marketplace momentum," said David West, the company’s chief executive. "Net sales gains were driven by core brand growth in both U.S. and international markets, new products and a seasonal shift in volume from the fourth quarter of last year to the first quarter of this year."

Hershey was able to achieve solid market share gains within its core chocolate and sugar confectionery business. It saw success from the launch of its new products Hershey’s Drops and Reese’s Minis, and while it’s too soon to tell, preliminary data shows it booked a strong Easter season.

Given the improved results, the company, which last week approved a $250 million stock repurchase authorization, reaffirmed its 2011 outlook. The candy maker sees full-year earnings in the range of $2.67 to $2.79 a share, excluding items, versus Wall Street's estimates of $2.79.