Hershey Sees Higher Fourth-quarter Profit

HERSHEY, Pa. - Hershey Foods Corp., the world's largest chocolate maker, said on Wednesday quarterly results swung to a profit on lower costs, a change in accounting rules, and a modest bump in sales as consumers bought more candy before a price hike, Reuters reports.

In December, Hershey announced a Jan. 1 wholesale price increase of about 3 percent on many of its chocolate bars, reflecting higher cocoa and other commodity costs. Other major food companies, including Kraft Foods Inc. and Kellogg Co., made similar moves.

The maker of Hershey's Kisses and Reese's Fast Break candy bars said it earned $130.3 million or 96 cents a share in the fourth quarter compared with a loss of $31.1 million or 33 cents in the year-ago period.

Fourth quarter sales edged up to $1.16 billion from $1.15 billion a year earlier. On a comparable basis, sales rose about 1 percent as customers scrambled to buy chocolate and other candies before the price increase took effect.

The sales increase was offset by higher trade promotion expenses, lower seasonal sales in the United States and weakness in the Canadian market, Hershey said.

Excluding restructuring and other charges, Hershey's fourth-quarter profit was $138.7 million or $1.02 a share compared with $130.5 million or 95 cents a year ago.

Hershey, which has been introducing more profitable products like Fast Break and cutting unprofitable items from its line, is working to turn around its gum and non-chocolate businesses.
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