ConAgra Misses Earnings Estimates, Hikes Dividend

ConAgra Foods (CAG) posted earnings from continuing operations of 32 cents a diluted share for the first quarter of fiscal 2011, compared with 37 cents a share a year earlier.

Sales fell 2.4% from a year earlier to $2.8 billion, the company said in a statement.

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"Our fiscal first-quarter margins and EPS were lower than planned because of an intense promotional environment and inflation that outpaced cost savings," CEO Gary Rodkin said. "There were, however, several signs of strength in terms of market share and brand sales, demonstrating progress and growth potential for important parts of our portfolio."

The earnings for first quarter of fiscal 2011 included 2 cents a share of net expense from items affecting comparability, while the earnings for first quarter fiscal 2010 included 1 cent a share of net expense from items affecting comparability.

ConAgra now expects comparable earnings per share to grow by 5%-7% in fiscal 2011, with all the growth taking place in the third and fourth quarters.

ConAgra said it would raise its quarterly dividend to 23 cents a share, from 20 cents per share currently. The first payment of 23 cents a share will be made on Dec 1., the company said in a statement.