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Scotts Miracle-Gro posts smaller 1Q loss

MARYSVILLE, Ohio (AP) -- Scotts Miracle-Gro Co. narrowed its loss in its fiscal first quarter, a period during which the lawn care products maker typically loses money, but predicted a better year ahead.

Sales of lawn and garden products are seasonal, Scotts Miracle-Gro says — shoppers don't tend to their lawns and gardens as much in winter. That means it routinely posts a loss in the October-December quarter.

The Marysville, Ohio, company on Wednesday predicted "significant improvement" in the second half of the year, as it tries to cut costs ahead of this year's lawn and garden season, said CEO Jim Hagedorn. Last year the company struggled with weak demand and higher commodity, shipping and administrative costs. Federal authorities also said in September that Scotts Miracle-Gro would pay $12.5 million in criminal and civil penalties for violating pesticide laws.

For 2013, the company expects flat unit volume and modest price increases.

In the quarter through Dec. 29, Scotts Miracle-Gro's loss came to $67.7 million, or $1.10 per share, compared with a loss of $73.9 million, or $1.21 per share, a year earlier. Excluding one-time charges, the loss was $1.12 per share, beating Wall Street's expectations by one cent.

Revenue rose 3 percent to $205.8 million from $199.6 million. Analysts polled by FactSet had predicted a slight drop in revenue, to $199.1 million.

Scotts Miracle-Gro backed its profit and sales prediction for the fiscal year through September. It forecast adjusted profit of $2.50 to $2.75 per share. Analysts expect $2.62 per share. The company continues to expect revenue of $2.85 billion to $2.91 billion, bracketing analysts' forecast of $2.89 billion.

Shares rose 57 cents, or 1.3 percent, to $44.50 in premarket trading. They have dropped 10.5 percent over the past 12 months.