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Tyson profits nearly double

Forecasts beat, its stock surges

By Steve Painter

This article was published November 20, 2012 at 2:48 a.m.

— Tyson Foods Inc. of Springdale reported Monday that it nearly doubled its fourth-quarter earnings over a year ago, even as revenue showed a slight decline.

The world’s largest meat producer reported net income of $185 million, or 51 cents a share. For the same period a year ago, the company reported net income of $95 million, or 26 cents a share.

Analysts surveyed by Thomson Reuters had forecast earnings of 44 cents a share on revenue of $8.48 billion. FactSet’s survey of analysts found a consensus of 47 cents a share.

Tyson’s results pushed its stock price sharply. The stock closed Monday at $18.72 a share, up $1.84 or 10.9 percent on the New York Stock Exchange.

The stock has traded between $14.07 and $21.06 in the past year.

Tyson’s revenue fell slightly from a year ago, to $8.37 billion from $8.4 billion for the previous period.

“Our earnings for the fourth quarter and fiscal year indicate that Tyson Foods is rising above the noise of commodity markets to produce solid, more consistent results,” Donnie Smith, Tyson president and chief executive officer, said in the company’s earnings release.

“It has taken us several years and a lot of work to get to this point, and although there is much more to be done, I believe we have reached a new level of sustainable performance,” he said.

Sales in the beef and pork sectors declined for the period.

The company’s board of directors declared a 10-cent special dividend and a 25 percent increase in its regular dividend.

Jim Lochner, chief operating officer, said on a conference call that the company was disappointed that the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has chosen not to ease the rules on renewable fuels which are diverting feed grains to ethanol production. He noted that the worst drought in years had driven grain prices sharply higher.

“For us as a company, we do our best to manage high grain prices, but we will have to price higher to cover costs. We are who we are,” he said.

Asked whether higher beef production costs can be passed on to consumers, Lochner said, “The bottom line is, beef prices will go up.” In addition to the drought, he noted, the nation’s cattle herd is shrinking.

“The fact of it is, the calf crop keeps diminishing,” he said.

Lochner said that when gasoline prices rise above $3.75 a gallon, the company sees an effect on household disposable income and shoppers trade down to chicken from more expensive beef.

He said the company is buying some South American corn to help offset rising price of the domestic corn crop.

Tyson said in its earnings release that higher grain costs could cost the company an additional $600 million in fiscal year 2013 over the just completed fiscal year.

The company expects hog supplies to be flat in the next fiscal year.

Smith said in the earnings release that the 2013 fiscal year “is likely to be to be equally, if not more difficult.”

Zacks Equity Research said in a report that Tyson’s full year adjusted earnings of $1.91 per share beat Zacks’ estimate of $1.76 a share. Zacks has a neutral rating on the stock.

Business, Pages 23 on 11/20/2012

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