Candy maker Hershey Co. (HSY: Quote) Thursday reported a higher fourth-quarter profit, on 12 percent growth in sales and improved margins, influenced by market share gain in all categories. However, adjusted earnings missed analysts' expectations. The company also raised its earnings outlook for full year 2013 and reaffirmed sales forecast.
John Bilbrey, president and chief executive officer stated, "While the macroeconomic environment remains challenging, we are well positioned to succeed in the marketplace and deliver on our commitments in 2013."
In the fourth quarter, the company's net income increased to $149.88 million or $0.66 per share from $142.13 million or $0.62 per share in the prior year.
The company said its recent-quarter results included net pre-tax charges of $24.3 million or $0.08 per share.
Excluding items, earnings were $0.74 per share. On average, 16 analysts polled by Thomson Reuters expected the company to earn $0.76 per share for the quarter. Analysts' estimates typically exclude special items.
"As expected, fourth quarter marketplace performance was solid and we gained market share in every category - chocolate, non-chocolate, mint and gum. We had solid seasonal growth in 2012, with retail sell-through in measured channels in line with our estimates," Bilbrey said.
Net sales for the quarter grew 11.7 percent to $1.75 billion, which also came above analysts' estimate of $1.71 billion. Net price realization and foreign currency exchange rates were a 2.3 point and 0.3 point benefit, respectively. Acquisition of Brookside brought a 2.1 point benefit.
For the full year 2013, the company raised its adjusted earnings per share growth view to 10-12 percent range, from the previous estimate of an 8-10 percent increase. The company now sees adjusted earnings to be in the range of $3.56 to $3.63 per share.
Analysts currently expect earnings of $3.59 per share for the year.
Reported earnings per share are expected to be $3.47 to $3.56 for the full year. Hershey still expects net sales growth of 5 to 7 percent, including the impact of foreign currency exchange rates.
In addition, the board has announced quarterly dividends of $0.42 on common stock and $0.38 on class B common stock, to stockholders of record on February 25, payable on March 15.
HSY closed Wednesday's regular trading at $78.28 on the NYSE.
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by RTT Staff Writer
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