ConAgra Earnings Flat; to Restate '03, '04

ConAgra Foods Inc. (CAG), a maker of packaged food including Butterball turkeys (search), on Thursday reported quarterly operating profit that was flat with last year as costs for ingredients like pork rose, and said it would restate results for fiscal years 2003 and 2004 due to income tax errors.

The company said the restatement would reduce after-tax profits principally in fiscal 2003 and 2004 in a range of $150 million to $200 million.

As a result, the company said results reported for the fiscal third quarter ended Feb. 27 are preliminary, and it did not provide year-earlier net figures.

ConAgra, which also makes Hebrew National (search) hotdogs and dozens of other packaged foods, said operating profit excluding income tax for the fiscal third quarter ended Feb. 27 was $314.1 million, the same as last year.

It posted a preliminary net profit of $160.2 million, or 31 cents a share, for the most recent quarter.

Analysts, on average, were expecting earnings per share of 32 cents.

Sales, which were not affected by the tax issue, rose slightly to $3.57 billion from $3.53 billion a year earlier.

The company forecast fourth-quarter earnings per share "modestly" above the third quarter figure.

On Feb. 22, the company warned earnings would be cut by 10 cents a share by higher ingredient prices, computer system issues and changes to its manufacturing network that caused problems in filling orders.