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Higher prices help Tyson Foods return to 4Q profit

SPRINGDALE, Ark. - Tyson Foods Inc. has returned to a fourth-quarter profit, partly helped by higher prices and increasing sales of pork and prepared foods.

The improvement is a sign that the meat producer, based in Springdale, Ark., is getting past an industrywide downturn brought on by a combination of higher production costs and slumping demand as shoppers cut spending.

Tyson said Monday that it earned $213 million, or 57 cents per share, for the three months ended Oct. 2. That compares with a loss of $457 million, or $1.23 per share, a year ago.

Removing an impairment charge of 7 cents per share related to Tyson's Brazilian poultry operations, earnings were 64 cents per share.

The results beat the 56 cents per share analysts surveyed by Thomson Reuters expected. Analysts' estimates typically omit one-time items.

The company's stock rose 55 cents, or 3.5 percent, to $16.19 in morning trading. Its shares have traded in a range of $11.94 to $20.56 over the past year.

Revenue climbed 3 percent to $7.44 billion, but fell short of Wall Street's $7.75 billion average forecast.

Pork sales climbed to $1.26 billion from $972 million, while prepared foods sales grew to $799 million from $733 million. Beef sales edged up slightly to $3.04 billion, while chicken sales dipped to $2.62 billion from $2.65 billion.

"We're just over halfway through our first quarter of fiscal 2011, and it is shaping up to be a strong quarter and another good year," President and CEO Donnie Smith said in a statement.

The company expects chicken, beef, pork and turkey production to rise next year, but that total domestic availability will likely be relatively flat compared with 2010 because of increased exports. Over the past couple of years, meat producers have cut production because less supply meant higher prices.

Tyson anticipates strong beef and pork exports in fiscal 2011. Higher prices for prepared foods will offset likely increased costs for grain and other materials next year, while domestic availability of chicken will depend on export volumes.

Tyson also said it cut its debt to the lowest level in almost a decade.

For the fiscal year, Tyson posted net income of $780 million, or $2.06 per share. In same period last year, the company lost $547 million, or $1.47 per share.

Annual revenue increased to $28.43 billion from $26.7 billion.

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