) to in-line from underperform.
Analyst Jaine Mehring says ahead of a conference call Wednesday morning, she raised her $0.27 first quarter earnings per share estimate to $0.35, and upped the $1.45 fiscal 2003 (June) estimate to $1.56. She also raised the $19 target to $21.
Mehring notes that the company cited an improved mix, cost efficiencies, favorable foreign exchange, lower interest expense and fewer shares as upside drivers. She thinks a lot of the improvement is commodity-input related.
Mehring rates the U.S. Food Manufacturers sector as "marketweight" on a 12-month to 18-month basis, but believes outperformance is possible through yearend.