General Mills: A stock that seems (lucky) charmed

General Mills (GIS) reported that its fourth-quarter net sales increased by 5 percent, leading to a net income increase of almost 100 percent. In the last year, net income per share has jumped from 53 cents to $1.07, and adjusted earnings have gone from 73 cents per share to 86 cents per share. In the same period, total income went from $185.2 million to $358.8 million and sales jumped from $3.47 billion to $3.65 billion.

It's not hard to see how General Mills is benefitting from the recession. Although it is probably most famous for its breakfast cereals, the company's brands cover an array of home cooking options. From instant cooking standbys like Hamburger Helper or Betty Crocker to more traditional ingredients like Gold Medal flour, the company is poised to take advantage of every aspect of the trend toward home cooking.

Further, organic choices like Cascadian Farms and Muir Glen and upscale brands like Haagen Dazs put it in a position to court aspirational and health-conscious consumers. Even in its core area, cereals, General Mills runs the gamut from healthier options like Cheerios and Chex to some of the highest sugar products on the market, like the famed "monster" cereals.

What this means is that the company is prepared to benefit from every level of recessionary cooking. Former restaurant goers who crave ease can use the company's prepared foods, while families that are looking to economize can use its base ingredients. What's more, with its considerable stable of comforting brands, the company should benefit from consumer unease and the move toward the familiar.

With this in mind, General Mills is predicting that its adjusted 2010 net will rise by 6-7 percent, from $3.98 per share to as much as $4.25. While not record-breaking, this represents an impressive growth outlook, given the current economic situation.
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