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Hershey Sweetens Outlook After Tasty First Quarter


Candy maker Hershey Co. (HSY) reported Tuesday a profit for the first quarter that increased from last year, reflecting revenue growth amid volume growth and higher prices.

Both adjusted earnings per share and quarterly revenues topped analysts' expectations. The company also raised its earnings and revenue forecast for the full-year 2012.

"Hershey's strong start to the year is the result of our continued strategy of disciplined investment in core brands in both the U.S. and key international markets," President and CEO John Bilbrey said in a statement.

The maker of Hershey's Kisses and Reese's peanut butter cups reported net income of $198.65 million, or $0.87 per share for the first quarter, higher than $160.12 million or $0.70 per share in the prior-year quarter.

Excluding special items, net income for the quarter grew to $219.91 million or $0.96 per share from $167.13 million or $0.73 per share in the year-ago quarter.

On average, 14 analysts polled by Thomson Reuters expected the company to post earnings of $0.81 per share for the first quarter. Analysts' estimates typically exclude special items.

Net sales for the quarter advanced 10.7 percent to $1.73 billion from $1.56 billion in the same quarter last year, driven by pricing, and topped ten Wall Street analysts' consensus estimate of $1.66 billion.

Looking ahead to fiscal 2012, the company raised its earnings guidance to a range of $2.82 to $2.92 per share from the prior forecast in the range of $2.79 to $2.89 per share, and also raised its adjusted earnings per share growth guidance to 10 to 12 percent from the previous estimate of a 9 to 11 percent.

The company also noted that net sales for the full year is now expected to grow around 7 to 9 percent, slightly higher than earlier projections.

Street is currently looking for full-year 2012 earnings of $3.14 per share on annual revenues of $6.51 billion.

"In the second quarter, shipments of our new products will accelerate with innovation in chocolate, sugar confectionery and mints," Bilbrey added.

The company also expects advertising spending to increase.

HSY closed Monday's regular trading session at $62.29, down $0.44 on a volume of 1.15 million shares, lower than the three-month average volume of 1.26 million shares. In the past 52-week period, the stock has been trading in a range of $53.77 to $63.27.

by RTTNews Staff Writer

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