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Sysco 1Q Earnings Down 8.3% On Fewer Gains; Food, Overhead Costs Rise

DOW JONES NEWSWIRES Sysco Corp.'s (SYY) fiscal first-quarter earnings fell 8.3% on fewer tax and insurance gains, and as the food-service distributor reported stronger demand but was hurt by rising food and overhead costs. The result missed analysts' expectations. President and Chief Executive Bill DeLaney said, "While our overall sales increase and operating expense management were encouraging, we missed our goal for operating income growth, largely due to a decline in gross profit margin and higher pension costs." Signs are emerging from a number of sources that consumers are beginning to eat out more after cutting back on restaurant visits during the recession. Sysco began building up its sales force last year after several years of trimming staff. The company, which already was North America's largest food-service distributor, aimed to increase market share further as demand began to stabilize. However, prices of staple foods such as dairy, meat and produce have risen sharply in recent months. For the quarter ended Oct. 2, Sysco reported a profit of $299.1 million, or 51 cents a share, down from $326.2 million, or 55 cents a share, a year earlier. The latest period included a 2 cent-a-share gain related to corporate-owned life insurance, while the prior year included gains of 9 cents a share related to a tax settlement and corporate-owned life insurance. Revenue increased 7.4% to $9.75 billion as the company reported its strongest volume growth since early 2007. Analysts polled by Thomson Reuters most recently forecast earnings of 51 cents a share on revenue of $9.55 billion. Gross margin fell to 18.8% from 19.3% on rising costs of food and other commodities. Operating expense rose 6%. Shares closed Friday at $30.03 and traded at $29.79 in recent premarket activity. -By Tess Stynes, Dow Jones Newswires; 212-416-2481; Tess.Stynes@dowjones.com;

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