US fruit and vegetable processor, Del Monte Foods, has forecasted earnings for the current fiscal year that are lower than Wall Street expectations.

Del Monte said it expects earnings per share of between 80 and 84 cents and revenue growth of 2-4% for the fiscal year to 2 May 2004.

When adjusted for integrations expenses, earnings per share are forecast at 88 to 92 cents, Del Monte said. Analysts polled by Thomson First Call were expecting a profit of 96 cents per share, reported Reuters.

Del Monte, which is integrating businesses it acquired from HJ Heinz in December, said its also expects free cash flow, before integration expenses, of over US$200m for the current fiscal year. The company said it would use the free cash flow to pay down debt. Integration expenses are expected to be around $25m for the current financial year.

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