Tyson Foods profit jumps as chicken sales rise

Tyson FoodsTSN posted a strong third-quarter profit Monday, powered by its poultry division, but beef and pork also made money as the world's largest meat producer finally overcame last year's steep increases in feed and fuel prices.

Tyson earned $134 million, or 35 cents a share, compared with $9 million, or 3 cents a share, a year earlier, though sales were down slightly.

Earnings from continuing operations were $127 million, or 33 cents a share, compared with a loss of $3 million, or a penny per share.

Tyson says sales dipped 3% to $6.66 billion from $6.85 billion on declines in beef and pork sales, but chicken sales improved partly on higher average prices.

Analysts forecast profit of 22 cents a share on revenue of $6.68 billion.

Chicken accounted for 36% of Tyson's sales for the quarter at $2.15 billion for the quarter. The company was able to reduce inventory and benefited from earlier cost-cutting moves.

Leland Tollett, interim president and CEO, said each of the company's operating segments is in good shape.

"Soft demand for protein is likely to make the fourth quarter more challenging than the third quarter, but I'm feeling much better about our position than I would be if we were sitting on a lot of inventory," Tollett said.

Beef accounted for 40.1% of Tyson's sales for the period at $2.7 billion. The company said the segment benefited from risk management in its futures contracts for live cattle, performing better than in the year-ago period.

Pork accounted for 12.6% of sales at $838 million and was aided by the company's futures management.

Prepared foods, 10.1% of sales at $673 million, helped lower materials costs, though sales prices were lower than a year earlier.

Tollett said the company has made progress in keeping costs down.

"We also have been disciplined in managing working capital and have reduced inventory by a substantial amount in the second and third quarters," he said.