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ConAgra Rises After Forecast Beats Estimates: Chicago Mover

ConAgra Foods Inc., the maker of Chef Boyardee and Healthy Choice meals, rose the most in almost four months after its earnings forecast for fiscal 2013 exceeded analysts’ estimates as food inflation moderates.

Earnings excluding one-time items will increase 6 percent to 8 percent from the $1.84-a-share profit in the year that ended May 27 because of acquisitions, growth in the potato unit and moderating food inflation, the Omaha, Nebraska-based company said in a statement today. The average of 13 analysts’ estimates compiled by Bloomberg was for profit of $1.92 a share, implying a 4.5 percent increase.

“Expectations were pretty low,” Jack Russo, a St. Louis-based analyst for Edward Jones who has a hold rating on the shares, said in a telephone interview. “The guidance was slightly better than some analysts expected.”

ConAgra rose 2.7 percent $25.26 in in New York, the biggest gain since Feb. 23.

The stock has dropped 3 percent this year amid weak consumer spending in the U.S., which according to data compiled by Bloomberg makes up 89 percent of the company’s sales. ConAgra’s organic food volumes declined 5 percent in the fiscal fourth quarter on “difficult economic conditions that are impacting consumer purchasing behavior,” it said in the statement.

Fourth-quarter earnings excluding pension expenses and other items were 51 cents a share, beating the average of analysts’ estimates by 1 cent.

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