Smithfield upgraded as market improves

AP News
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Posted: Nov 11, 2009 1:22 PM

An analyst upgraded Smithfield Food Inc. on Wednesday, sending shares of the food maker to a 13-month high.

Deutsche Bank analyst Christina McGlone said she was raising her rating on the nation's largest hog producer and pork processor to "Buy" from "Hold."

McGlone credited the company's restructuring efforts for the upgrade, along with a reduction in the number of breeding hogs because of smaller competitors' growing financial problems. She also cited rising demand overseas for U.S. pork for the increase.

"We now see evidence of a fundamental turn, given breeding herd reduction in the U.S. and Canada (and) reports of struggling hog producers and bank pressure likely to accelerate efforts," she wrote in a note to investors published Wednesday.

The company, based in Smithfield, Va., has been trying to work through a slump in the meat industry brought on by record high ingredient costs last year and an oversupply of meat on the market, which kept prices down.

The company has been trimming production, closing plants and cutting jobs, and shifting focus on the more profitable packaged meats business.

Its shares rose $1.42, or 9.1 percent, to $17.05 in midday trading Wednesday. Earlier in the session, shares climbed as high as $17.34. The company's stock hasn't been that high since early Oct. 2008.