Hershey, the nation's second-largest candy maker, on Thursday reported a 9 percent increase in its third-quarter profit, citing higher prices and strong Halloween sales.
The Hershey Co. also raised its 2011 sales forecast for the second time in three months, saying it expects sales will rise by 7 percent in 2011, up from its earlier estimate of 6 percent.
It maintained its 2011 profit outlook of a 10 percent increase, and offered a 2012 forecast within its long-range goals of a 3 to 5 percent sales increase and a 6 to 8 percent profit increase.
Despite the strong results and upbeat outlook, Hershey shares fell on an otherwise strong day for the market. Shares were down $2.42, or 4 percent, to close at $57.46 Thursday.
Morningstar analyst Erin Lash said that investors may be cautious about the company's expectation of higher commodity prices in 2012, and a slight drop in overall sales volumes might be worrying them, too.
Citi Investment analyst David C. Driscoll called it a good quarter, with sales holding up better than expected given the price increase and sales momentum continuing to driving profits.
"With that said, investors were likely expecting an even better report and higher guidance for 2011 and 2012," Driscoll said.
Earnings at the Hershey, Pa., company, famous for its Hershey's Kisses and Reese's peanut butter cups, were $196.7 million, or 86 cents a share for the three months that ended Oct. 2.
The results were slightly better than the company's expectations, as growth in overall U.S. candy sales continued to beat the historical average, Hershey's president and CEO, John P. Bilbrey, said.
A year ago, Hershey reported $180.2 million, or 78 cents per share. Counting a pre-tax gain on a sale of trademark rights, the company's adjusted earnings met analyst expectations of 84 cents per share.
Revenue also met analyst expectations, rising 5 percent to more than $1.62 billion.
"We're positioned to carry our marketplace momentum into the fourth quarter and gain market share for the third consecutive year," Bilbrey said. "Additionally, Halloween got off to a solid start and we now anticipate higher seasonal sales for the full year."
For 2012, the company said it expects to be helped by a price increase announced in March to offset the cost of commodities trading above their two-year average prices.