Omaha, Nebraska-based food giant ConAgra Foods, the second largest conglomerate in the US, may be preparing to sell off its slower-growth units, according to market analysts.

With the recent reporting of its Q2 earnings, the company separated the financial results of its branded foods and agricultural businesses, creating four fiscal divisions. Food ingredients, meat processing and agricultural products, all dependent on sector trends, are listed separately from packaged foods, which now contains nearly all of the company#;s brands.

This, analyst Eric Katzman told Reuters, “could be the first step” to divesting units. The Deutsche Banc Alex Brown analyst explained: “They’ve been putting resources behind the higher-margin packaged foods areas, and by their own admission have disclosed that parts of their agricultural products, and even meat-processing, have underperformed.”

Another sign of possible reorganisation, according to analysts, is the pressure on the firm#;s management to invigorate share performance. In 2001, ConAgra stock lagged the Standard & Poor’s Food Index by nearly 10% and fell far short of the early 1999 high of more than US$34 a share.

ConAgra first debated the possibility of spinning off underperforming units in 1997, more recently however, it has declined to comment on the fiscal reorganisation other than to say that it reflects “changes in how the company manages its business”.

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