Packaged food giant ConAgra Foods Inc. (NYSE: CAG) completed its $4.95 billion acquisition of private-label food maker Ralcorp late last month, and today the company told an analysts’ conference that 2013 will be a better year than it originally thought. The outlook, though, is tempered somewhat by what the company called an “aggressive debt reduction” plan that will carry through to the end of fiscal 2015.
The company’s CEO said:
The profitability of our core business is showing strong progress, and we have recently completed the largest acquisition in our history with the purchase of Ralcorp. The transaction is financially and strategically compelling and creates a company with $18 billion in net sales and the leading position in North America in private brands. We have already begun the integration process, and look forward to reporting on our progress over the next few months.
The company raised its fiscal 2013 earnings per share (EPS) outlook to $2.06 in December, and today said it expects the addition of Ralcorp to boost EPS by another $0.05 per share. For the full year, the company now expects EPS of $2.15, slightly better than the consensus estimate of $2.13. The addition of Ralcorp is also expected to add $0.25 to fiscal year 2014 EPS. ConAgra’s fiscal year ends in May.
ConAgra said it will continue its current $1.00 annual dividend (yield is 3%) as it works on reducing its debt. Ralcorp brought about $1.8 billion in debt to the merger, and ConAgra has arranged to borrow about $6 billion to help finance the deal
Shares of ConAgra are up about 0.5% in premarket trading this morning, at $33.89 in a 52-week range of $23.64 to $33.93.