ConAgra Shares Slump as Higher Prices on Frozen Meals Hurt Sales

ConAgra Foods Inc. shares fell the most in almost five months after fourth-quarter revenue missed analysts’ estimates, pulled down by sluggish performance of the company’s consumer brands.

Revenue dropped to $2.83 billion in the quarter that ended May 29, trailing analysts’ average projection of $2.89 billion. Sales in ConAgra’s consumer foods unit tumbled 12 percent to $1.69 billion, with higher prices for the Banquet line of frozen meals taking a particular toll, the Omaha, Nebraska-based company said in a statement Thursday.

The results highlight the challenges that ConAgra now faces after transforming itself over the past year to focus on consumer brands like Healthy Choice frozen meals and Swiss Miss cocoa. Chief Executive Officer Sean Connolly, facing activist pressure, shed the private-label business, which had weighed on sales and profit. He also announced plans to spin off Lamb Weston, a unit that supplies potatoes to fast-food chains. ConAgra said in Thursday’s statement that the spinoff is on track for this fall, tamping down speculation that Connolly would sell the unit to another food company, which could have provided more of a windfall for shareholders.

“Investors were hoping for some news on Lamb Weston, and confirming the spinoff at some point in late September is likely viewed negatively by some investors,” Chris Growe, an analyst at Stifel Financial Corp., said in a note.

ConAgra fell as much as 3.2 percent to $46.10 in New York after the results were released. The shares had gained 13 percent this year through Wednesday’s close.

Before it's here, it's on the Bloomberg Terminal.