US food company H J Heinz has reported a sharp rise in fourth-quarter net income and said fiscal 2004 had been a successful year.

The company reported net income of $196.5m, or 55 cents per share, for the fourth quarter to 28 April 2004, compared to $102.6m, or 29 cents per share, in the year-ago period. Full-year net income rose to $804.3m, or $2.27 per share, from $566.3m, or $1.60 per share, in the year-ago period.

Fourth-quarter sales were $2.33bn compared to $2.19bn a year earlier. Full-year sales rose to $8.4bn from $8.2bn in the previous year.

“Heinz’s fourth quarter capped off a successful fiscal year in which it achieved key sales, cash and earnings objectives. In particular, our fiscal 2004 cash performance was outstanding, as we went beyond the top end of our target range for operating free cash flow,” said CEO William Johnson.

Johnson said the company had made significant progress in driving profitable growth and reducing costs. Worldwide ketchup volume was up 8% in fiscal 2004, he added.

The company said it is targeting full-year earnings per share of $2.32 to $2.42 for fiscal 2005.

Heinz’s fourth quarter sales increased 6.3%, reflecting the favourable impact of foreign exchange translation rates. Volume declined by approximately 1%, affected by, among other things, the continued decline in the nutritional frozen entree market in the US, which has been impacted by the trend toward low-carb dieting. These declines were partially offset by volume increases in Heinz’s UK business, which increased approximately 6% due to favourable sales growth in soup and infant feeding, and by the favourable response to the successful Ore-Ida Extra Crispy introduction in the US.