US packaged foods manufacturer Flowers Foods has posted a fourth-quarter net loss of US$9.9m, or 33 cents a share, compared to a loss of $5.8m, or 19 cents a share, for the same period in the previous year.

For the fourth quarter to 28 December, Flowers reported a profit of 21 cents a share before one-time items. In mid-December, the company forecast earnings of 12 cents to 17 cents a share, compared to analysts’ estimates of 27 cents at that time. Analysts then lowered their forecasts to around 14 cents a share.

Sales in the quarter were up 3.3% to $420.4m, compared to $406.8m for the fourth quarter of the previous year.

Flowers has also announced that it has made an agreement to sell its Mrs Smith’s frozen dessert unit to Schwan Food for $240m in cash, in a bid to streamline underperforming assets and improve profits.

Flowers is expected to use funds from the sale to pay off around $200m in debt, with the rest going towards buying back its own stock or pursuing acquisitions, reported Reuters.