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Campbell 3Q Profit Rises, Tops Forecasts

CAMDEN, N.J. (AP) _ Campbell Soup Co. said Monday that its third-quarter profit inched higher as strong domestic sales of baking and snack products and rising international sales of soup and sauces offset weak demand for soups, sauces and beverages in the United States.

Shares of Campbell rose 57 cents, or 1.9 percent, to $30.91 in early trading Monday on the New York Stock Exchange, topping last week's 52-week high of $30.60.

Quarterly income grew to $146 million, or 35 cents per share, in the three months ended May 1 from $142 million, or 34 cents, in the year-ago period, which included a gain of $10 million, or 2 cents per share, from the settlement of a class-action lawsuit.

The latest earnings beat the average estimate of 33 cents per share from analysts surveyed by Thomson Financial.

Net sales totaled $1.74 billion, a gain of 4 percent from $1.67 billion a year earlier but slightly below the $1.76 billion targeted by Wall Street analysts.

The company said domestic sales of soups, sauces and beverages slipped 2 percent to $627 million while sales of baking and snack products jumped 8 percent to $421 million. Meanwhile, international soup and sauce sales grew 6 percent to $435 million.

Douglas R. Conant, Campbell's president and chief executive officer, said sales of condensed soup, which have been sliding or stagnant for years, increased 4 percent in the third quarter. He called it the segment's best performance in many years.

``We are very pleased with the performance of Pepperidge Farm, Arnott's biscuits, Godiva Chocolatier and our Away From Home Soup business,'' he said.

Campbell said cash flow from operations was strong, rising to $772 million for the first nine months of fiscal 2005, up from $576 million a year earlier.

Looking ahead, Campbell backed its forecast for annual earnings of $1.66 to $1.69 per share but cut expectations for capital spending to $350 million from an earlier forecast of $380 million.

Analysts are looking for a profit of $1.68 per share on $7.58 billion in sales. Campbell earned $1.58 per share and had sales of $7.11 billion in 2004.

For the first nine months, Campbell posted net income of $611 million, or $1.48 per share, up from $588 million, or $1.43 per share, in the year-ago period. Sales for the first nine months totaled $6.1 billion, up from $5.7 billion a year ago.
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