US food company J M Smucker has reported a slight decline in fourth-quarter net income, hit by merger and restructuring costs.

The company posted net income of US$22.2m, or 44 cents per share, for the fourth quarter to 30 April 2004, compared to earnings of $23.2m, or 46 cents per share, in the same period of the previous year.

Total sales were $325.4m for the fourth quarter of 2004, down slightly from $329.0m in the fourth quarter of 2003, although the company said excluding industrial, sales were up slightly from last year's quarter.

Increases in the Smucker's and Jif brands, along with the impact of favourable exchange rates, were offset by anticipated declines in Crisco sales and the planned reduction in industrial sales. The Jif and Crisco brands contributed $134.0m to sales in the fourth quarter of 2004, compared to $143.0m in the year-ago quarter.

"We are pleased with our performance for the quarter," said Richard Smucker, president, co-chief executive officer, and chief financial officer. "We exceeded our earnings expectations for the quarter and the year and are well-positioned for the new year."

Sales for the year were up 8% to $1.42bn. The Jif and Crisco brands contributed $656.0m to sales for the year, compared to $571.0m last year. Net income for 2004 was $111.4m, or $2.21 per share, compared to $96.3m, or $2.02 per share, last year.

Looking ahead, the company said results for fiscal 2005 will include approximately ten months of the International Multifoods business after completion of the acquisition. Fiscal 2005 results will also include some merger and integration costs related to the acquisition.