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Sanderson Farms 3rd-qtr profit leaps; shares slump

LAUREL, Miss. (AP) -- Sanderson Farms said Tuesday its net income more than doubled in the fiscal third quarter, reflecting higher prices for its poultry products.

The company said the average price for a whole chicken rose about 12 percent compared with a year ago, and boneless breast meat prices were about 32 percent higher than last year. It said demand from retail grocery stores was steady during the quarter. However, Sanderson said grain prices were higher during the quarter, but "favorable growing conditions this summer have fueled considerable optimism about this year's corn and soybean crops," Chairman and CEO Joe F. Sanderson said in a statement. "While the available grain quantity and prices during the coming months will ultimately depend on this year's final crop performance, prices have recently moved lower."

The company posted earnings of $67.9 million, or $2.95 per share, for the three months ended July 31. For last year's third quarter, it reported net income of $28.7 million, or $1.25 per share. Its revenue for the period increased 18 percent, to $739 million from $624.9 million.

Analysts, on average, were expecting net income of $2.62 per share and $717 million in revenue, according to FactSet.

Shares of Sanderson Farms Inc. initially jumped, but then turned down. The stock fell $5.14, or 7.4 percent, to $64.65 in morning trading, still toward the high end of its 52-week trading range of $39.91 to $75.53. The company will hold a conference call to discuss the results later Tuesday.