US food and consumer goods giant Sara Lee has announced a rise in net sales in the third quarter ended 2 April 2005 to $4.8bn from $4.7bn in the same period last year, but net income was well down.

Net income was $189m, compared with $376m a year ago.

For the first nine months of fiscal 2005, sales were $14.8bn, up from the year earlier figure of $145.4bn. Net income for the nine months was $867m

During the third quarter, sales benefited from higher unit volumes and increased net selling prices in meats, price increases in beverage and favourable exchange rates, the company said.

"Despite a challenging quarter, we achieved earnings per share results within our stated guidance, which included the gain on the disposition of the canned meats business, but did not include charges relative to our decision about repatriation of earnings from outside of the United States or any transformation costs," said Brenda C. Barnes, president and chief executive officer of Sara Lee Corporation.