November 2, 2011 / 8:20 PM / in 7 years

Kraft profit tops estimates; lifts 2011 view

(Reuters) - Kraft Foods Inc KFT.N reported higher-than-expected quarterly profit and raised its full-year outlook, citing strong sales trends around the world.

North America’s largest packaged food company, whose shares dipped 0.5 percent in after-hours trading, did not offer an update on its progress in splitting up the company, a plan it announced in August.

Morningstar analyst Erin Lash said the lukewarm market reaction could be due to possible clouds on the horizon in 2012.

“From our perspective there could be other headwinds related to commodity costs and consumer spending,” Lash said.

Furthermore, because of the pending separation — into a North American business with brands like Oscar Mayer lunch meat and a global snacks business with Cadbury chocolate — many investors may be valuing Kraft based on the sum of its parts rather than the typical price-to-earnings ratio, she said.

The company said on Wednesday that net income was $922 million, or 52 cents per share, in the third quarter, up from $754 million, or 43 cents per share, a year earlier.

Excluding items, earnings were 58 cents per share, topping analysts’ average estimate of 55 cents per share, according to Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S.

Net revenue rose 11.5 percent to $13.23 billion. Organic net revenue rose 8.4 percent, driven by growth in all geographies.

Price increases, taken to offset higher commodity costs, contributed 7 percentage points of growth, while volume and mix of products contributed 1.4 points of growth.

The company raised its 2011 outlook, saying it expects organic revenue growth of at least 6 percent and operating earnings per share of at least $2.27. In August it forecast revenue growth of at least 5 percent and earnings of at least $2.25 per share.

“We’ve raised our outlook for the year due to the strong business momentum in each of our geographies,” said Kraft Chief Financial Officer David Brearton in a statement. He added that the forecast excludes any potential impact from foreign exchange rates in the current fourth quarter.

Kraft shares fell 16 cents, or 0.5 percent, to $34.48 in after-hours trade from their close on the New York Stock Exchange at $34.64.

Reporting by Martinne Geller in New York, editing by Bernard Orr

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