Heinz expects emerging markets to boost 1Q

Associated Press

PITTSBURGH (AP) — Food maker H.J. Heinz Co. on Tuesday said strength in emerging markets and a better tax rate will help push its first-quarter earnings above analyst expectations.

The world's biggest ketchup maker expects net income of 87 cents per share. Analysts had expected 80 cents per share, according to FactSet. A year ago, net income totaled 78 cents per share, excluding one-time items.

The Pittsburgh company is scheduled to report its first-quarter results on Wednesday.

Growth in emerging markets, improved productivity and a favorable tax rate all helped results, said Chairman and CEO William Johnson. Heinz is focusing on countries such as Brazil, China, Russia and Indonesia, which are growing faster than the U.S. and Western Europe.

Like most food makers, it is also facing higher costs and has offset that by cutting costs of its own. It has said it will close up to eight factories of its 81 plants worldwide as part of its plan to lower costs and improve productivity.

The update came as the company conducted its annual shareholder meeting in Pittsburgh. At the meeting, Johnson said net income, excluding one-time charges, would rise "despite the headwinds of a still weak economy and adverse foreign currency trends." The stronger dollar lowers the value of overseas sales. That effect amounted to 4 cents per share, Johnson said.

Shares of Heinz rose $1.66, or 2.9 percent, to $58.12 during midday trading. The stock is up about 5 percent since the beginning of the year.