Campbell Soup Earnings Fall Amid Restructuring

Food conglomerate Campbell Soup Co. (CPB) posted a 20 percent drop in fourth-quarter profits as the company began its latest restructuring effort.

The Camden-based company on Monday reported net income of $59 million, or 14 cents per share, for the quarter that ended Aug. 1. Earnings for the sale period a year earlier were $74 million, or 18 cents per share.

Excluding one-time charges of $32 million related to restructuring and a gain of $6 million from the sale of an idle plant, earnings per share were 17 cents. That was a penny below the expectation of analysts surveyed by Thomson First Call and down a penny from the fourth quarter results of a year earlier.

Campbell shares were down 33 cents at $25.87 on the New York Stock Exchange (search).

A quirk of the calendar made the company's performance look slightly worse. The fourth quarter last year had 14 weeks, while this year's final quarter had the customary 13.

In a quarter that covers most of the summer, when soup sales usually slow, the company's sales were $1.43 billion, down roughly 1.5 percent from $1.46 billion a year earlier.

For fiscal 2004, Campbell profits were $647 million or $1.57 per share, up nearly 9 percent from the $595 million or $1.45 per share in fiscal 2003. Sales were $7.11 billion, up 6.5 percent from the $6.68 billion worth of food the company sold the previous year.

The fiscal 2004 earnings per share were also 1 cent lower than analysts anticipated.

Campbell is the world's largest soupmaker and also produces foods from Pepperidge Farm (search) cookies and crackers to Prego pasta sauces and Godiva chocolates (search).

The firm is at the end of a three-year plan to boost long-eroding sales of its highly profitable condensed soup line. In June, Campbell announced new strategies to continue that revival.

The changes include layoffs of 400 workers from its worldwide staff of about 25,000.