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Flowers Foods profit climbs after Hostess demise

NEW YORK (AP) -- Flowers Foods said Thursday that its profit rose by 67 percent in the fourth quarter, as the maker of Tastykakes and various breads benefited from acquisitions and the demise of rival Hostess Brands.

The company, based in Thomasville, Ga., said sales volume rose 10 percent for the October to December period. Its purchase of Lepage Bakeries, which makes Nature's Own bread, contributed to the quarter's sales. But the company also got a boost after Twinkies-maker Hostess said it was going out of business in November. Flowers Foods has since been selected by Hostess as the leading bidder for six major bread brands, including Wonder and Nature's Pride.

Flowers Foods' bid sets the floor for an auction process during which others will be able to make competing bids. A hearing for a final sale is scheduled for March 5.

For the three months ended Dec. 29, the company earned $38.6 million, or 28 cents per share. That's compared with $23 million, or 17 cents per share, in the year-ago period.

Sales rose 15 percent to $749.4 million

Analysts on average expected 25 cents per share on revenue of $709.1 million, according to FactSet.

After Hostess shut down, Flowers Foods CEO George Deese said in a statement that the company "rallied to meet the needs of new and existing customers."

For the year, the company earned 98 cents per share, up from 90 cents per share. Net sales for the year rose 10 percent to $3.05 billion, reflecting volume growth of 2 percent.

The company postponed specific earnings guidance for the year pending its acquisition of Hostess bread brands and for the rights to Sara Lee and Earthgrains brands in California. But it said it expects to meet or exceed its long-term objectives for double-digit earnings per share growth.

Shares of Flowers Foods rose 52 cents to $28.41 in morning trading.