Wrigley Earnings Up

(Reuters) - Wm. Wrigley Jr. Co., the world's largest chewing gum maker, said on Tuesday that second-quarter earnings rose 8.6 percent, as growth in shipments and better margins offset higher marketing costs and pressure from weak European currencies.

Wrigley said U.S. dollar strength primarily against the euro and sterling cut earnings-per-share by 2 cents in the quarter and operating profits would have risen 13 percent from a year ago absent that impact.

Operating profits from Wrigley's well-established chewing-gum business were offset partly by losses from the health-care unit where launch costs and marketing spending for Surpass antacid gum continued to exceed revenues.

Chicago-based Wrigley said it earned $100 million, or 44 cents a diluted share, in the quarter, compared with $92.1 million, or 40 cents, in the same period last year.

Analysts' estimates had ranged from 44 cents to 45 cents, with a mean of 45 cents, according to market research firm Thomson Financial/First Call.

Net sales for the quarter were $623.9 million, up 9 percent from $570.2 million a year earlier. In the absence of currency translation, sales would have grown by 13 percent, Wrigley said.

Sales in the Americas region rose 8 percent on solid volume growth, selected price increases in the U.S. market and a better mix of products sold, Wrigley said.

Globally, operating profits excluding currency translation were led by Russia and the United Kingdom in the European region, while China and Taiwan led gains across almost all markets in the Asia/Pacific region, Wrigley said.

Shares of Wrigley were off 6 cents at $48 Tuesday on the New York Stock Exchange and are essentially flat since the start of the year. The shares have outperformed the Standard & Poor's Food index (.SPFOOD) by nearly 9 percent in that time, while the food index has declined by nearly 8 percent.

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