Earnings: General Mills | ConAgra | FedEx |

General Mills Earnings Rise

CHICAGO (Reuters) - General Mills Inc. (GIS), the world's second-largest maker of breakfast cereal, on Thursday said quarterly earnings rose, helped by sales of ready-to-serve soups and improved plant operations.

The company also stood by its earnings forecast for the fiscal year.

Net income for the fiscal first quarter that ended August 27 was $267 million, or 74 cents per share, compared with $252 million, or 64 cents per share, a year ago.

Wall Street analysts, on average, had been expecting earnings of 67 cents per share, according to Reuters Estimates.

Sales rose 7 percent to $2.86 billion, beating the average analyst forecast of $2.75 billion compiled by Reuters estimates. Volume, a measure of products sold that factors out currency and price fluctuations, rose 4 percent.

Like many U.S. food companies, General Mills has been grappling with higher costs for commodities such as sugar, soybeans and energy. At the same time, the maker of products including Cheerios cereal and Progresso soups has stepped-up marketing spending to fend off competition from rival cereal maker Kellogg Co. (K).

General Mills also maintained its forecast calling for earnings of $3.03 to $3.08 a share, with net sales up in single digits on a percentage basis.

General Mills shares closed at $53.02 Wednesday on the New York Stock Exchange. The stock has gained about 7.5 percent so far this year, compared with a 14.5 percent increase in Kellogg shares.

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ConAgra Earnings Beat Views

CHICAGO (Reuters) - ConAgra Foods Inc. (CAG) Thursday posted lower quarterly profit from continuing operations as costs for ingredients and energy increased and it spent more to ramp up marketing and overhaul its business.

But earnings came in better than expected, and the company raised its full-year forecast.

ConAgra, whose brands include Slim Jim beef sticks and Healthy Choice frozen entrees, said profit from continuing operations fell to $108.5 million, or 21 cents a share, in the first quarter ended Aug. 27, compared with $319.2 million, or 61 cents a share, a year earlier.

Excluding one-time items, earnings from operations were were 26 cents a share. On that basis, analysts had forecast 23 cents, according to Reuters Estimates.

ConAgra did not provide net income figures because results from discontinued operations have not yet been finalized to reflect the sale of its refrigerated meat business.

The company is in the midst of a program to cut costs by closing factories and selling off some brands while also trying to increase marketing to help boost sales.

Sales rose 0.6 percent to $2.69 billion, the company said. Analysts on average had forecast $2.76 billion, according to Reuters Estimates.

ConAgra said it expected earnings from continuing operations to be $1.17 to $1.22 a share, 5 cents higher than its previous outlook. Analysts on average forecast $1.14 a share.

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FedEx Profit Leaps 40 Percent

CHICAGO, (Reuters) - Package delivery company FedEx Corp. (FDX) said Thursday its quarterly profit jumped 40 percent, beating expectations, on strong growth in its ground and freight segments.

Profit increased to $475 million, or $1.53 a share, for its 2007 fiscal first quarter ended Aug. 31, from $339 million, or $1.10 a share, a year earlier. FedEx is often seen as a bellwether of U.S. economic activity, along with main rival United Parcel Service Inc. (UPS).

Analysts, on average, expected FedEx earnings of $1.51 per share, according to Reuters Estimates.

The Memphis, Tennessee-based company also raised its outlook for full-year 2007 earnings to a range of $6.50 to $6.85 a share from a previous range of $6.45 to $6.80.

Wall Street analysts expected full-year earnings per share of $6.80.

"We remain confident in our ability to achieve solid profitable growth by taking advantage of strong international trade trends," Chief Executive Frederick Smith said in a statement.

"The global economy is growing at a healthy pace with the U.S. economy growing at a moderate, sustainable rate," Smith added.

Revenue jumped to $8.54 billion from $7.71 billion.

Revenue at its ground package segment rose to $1.42 billion from $1.22 billion.

Revenue at the freight unit increased to $1.01 billion from $892 million.

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