Sara Lee Cooks Up Disappointing 3Q Profit, Shares Fall

Shares of Sara Lee (NYSE:SLE) slid more than 2.3% Thursday after the packaged meat manufacturer reported a worse-than-expected decline in quarterly profit, as earnings across its business segments declined.

The provider of products under the Jimmy Dean and Hillshire Farms brands reported third-quarter earnings from continuing operations of $38 million, or 6 cents a share, compared with a year-earlier $124 million, or 21 cents.

Excluding one-time items, the Ball Park hot-dog maker said it earned 20 cents, below average analyst estimates of 25 cents in a Thomson Reuters poll.

Sales were up about 3% to $1.86 billion, but missed the Street’s view of $1.95 billion.

While earnings were down in its coffee and tea, meat, North American retail and North American foodservice groups, sales edged higher, with the biggest percentage growth in foodservice, which grew 6.9% to $260 million.

Sara Lee said it is on track to spin-off the coffee and tea business by June 30 as part of a goal to split into two separate public companies. The tea business will be called D.E. Master Blenders 1753 and the other will maintain the Sara Lee name and focus on its meat brands.

The food conglomerate expects adjusted earnings for the fiscal year to fall in the middle of its earlier-provided range of 89 cents to 96 cents a share, which would put it virtually in line with the 92 cents currently forecasted by analysts.

Sara Lee sees sales at the lower end of its $7.9 billion and $8.15 billion guidance, which brackets the $8.08 billion predicted by the Street.