Tyson Lowers 2004 Earnings Outlook

Tyson Foods Inc. (TSN), the world's largest meat company, Monday cut its fiscal 2004 earnings forecast, citing weaker-than-expected demand for chicken and beef and unexpectedly steep raw material costs along with expenses from plant closings.

The Springdale, Ark.-based company said it expects to earn between $1.08 and $1.15 per share for the fiscal year ending Oct. 2. Stripping out 18 cents in one-time charges, the forecast was $1.26 to $1.33 per share.

Analysts, on average, expected earnings of $1.43 per share, according to Reuters Estimates.

Tyson expects to take a charge of 11 cents per share because of charges related to discovery of bovine spongiform encephalopathy (search) in a Washington state cow. No Tyson animal has been found to have mad cow disease but more than 30 countries banned U.S. beef products after the illness was identified late last year.

Tyson also said it expects to see earnings reduced by 7 cents per share for plant closings in the first nine months of the fiscal year.

Earnings without the charges would be between $1.26 and $1.33 for the year.

Analysts surveyed by Thomson First Call had forecast Tyson to have annual earnings of $1.45 per share before charges.

On the New York Stock Exchange (search), Tyson shares were down $1.46, or 8.2 percent, at $16.27.

"We presently expect our fourth quarter to be more difficult, primarily due to unfavorable results from grain hedging activity, combined with weaker than expected demand in our chicken and beef segments. Additionally, raw material costs for our prepared foods products did not decline as we expected," company chairman and chief executive John Tyson said.

But he said year-over-year earnings per share growth is anticipated to be in the range of 56 percent to 64 percent after adjusting 2004 up by 18 cents for BSE and plant closing costs and adjusting 2003 down by 15 cents for the net benefit of vitamin settlement proceeds, plant closing costs and charges related to an equity interest in a live swine operation.

Last fiscal year, Tyson earned $337 million, or 96 cents per share, on sales of $24.55 billion.

The company is to release its fourth quarter and full-year earnings on Nov. 15.

Reuters and the Associated Press contributed to this report.