In fact, ConAgra wrapped up its "multi-year portfolio reshaping program" in November, selling its last two significant non-core businesses, chicken processing and United Agri Products (UAP). With the $800 million cash in pocket, management announced a $1 billion share repurchase program, effective today, accounting for about 7% of the company's outstanding shares.
The initiative was an attempt by ConAgra to "focus capital on branded, value-added foods," where it competes in a space with the likes of Hormel Foods
Excluding divestures, packaged food sales including Banquet, Chef Boyardee, Hebrew National, Marie Calendar's, and Slim Jim -- grew 3% during the quarter. Growth in several of these major brands helped offset competition-induced weakness in branded consumer meat products categories.
Impressively, general corporate expenses dropped 33.3% to $79.1 million, helping to drive profits.
Going forward, ConAgra expects "solid operating performance" in the second half and sees the fourth quarter as a seasonally stronger contributor to earnings than the third. Management also expects the quarter to deliver a "higher year-over-year EPS growth rate." It certainly helps that the company took a charge for the divesture of its chicken processing operations during last year's fourth quarter.
Bottom line: ConAgra turned in a solid quarter, and the good times should continue with its reshaping program now complete. Following its earnings report, ConAgra shares are up 2% to $26 in early afternoon trading.