Smithfield Foods said today that it expects earnings per share for its fiscal third quarter to 26 January to approximate the 4 cents per share it posted in the second quarter.

Analysts on average expected earnings of 22 cents per share, with a range of 15 cents to 31 cents, reported Reuters.
 
The company said that the adverse combination of low hog prices and weak fresh meat prices continues to depress profitability. Given the excess supply of all proteins in the marketplace, fresh pork prices have been under severe pressure, resulting in reduced seasonal fresh pork profitability.

"While processed meats and beef operations remain quite strong, they are unable to offset the impact of hog prices below break-even and an extremely poor fresh pork environment," Smithfield said.

The company said market conditions are slowly improving and that it remains optimistic about the fourth quarter of fiscal 2003 compared to the third quarter and the year-on-year comparison of fiscal 2004 with the current year.