UPDATE 2-United Natural Q1 profit rises, ups FY08 sales view

martes 20 de noviembre de 2007 22:04 CET

(Recasts, adds analyst's comments, conf call comments, background, updates share movement)

By Dhanya Skariachan

BANGALORE Nov 20 (Reuters) - United Natural Foods Inc (UNFI.O: Cotización) beat Wall Street's view with a 9 percent jump in quarterly profit as higher sales and a lower tax rate offset rising fuel prices and start-up costs related to distribution facilities.

The organic- and natural-foods distributor also raised its fiscal-2008 sales outlook to reflect the impact of its recent acquisition of Millbrook, which distributes specialty food items, health and beauty care products, and non-food items.

Shares of the company rose as much as 11 percent, before falling back to close up $1.74 at $28.00 Tuesday on the Nasdaq.

Since touching a year-high in November last year, the stock had plunged 36 percent to a year-low of $24.10 on Sept. 12 as quarterly results were dragged by higher costs that ate into margins and United Natural's two biggest customers decided to merge.

On Tuesday, the Dayville, Connecticut-based company posted first-quarter earnings of $13.6 million, or 32 cents a share, compared with $12.4 million, or 29 cents a share, a year ago. Analysts on average expected earnings of 31 cents a share, before items.

Net sales rose 13.9 percent to $736.4 million, helped by a comparable growth rate of 22 percent at the supernatural channel of its wholesale segment, where core grocery customers include Whole Foods Markets Inc WFMI.O and Wild Oats. Analysts expected revenue of $732.1 million, according to Reuters Estimates.

"Despite slow economic conditions, demand for our products remained very consistent," United Natural Chief Executive Michael Funk said in conference call with analysts.   Continuación...