Heinz slips in third quarter

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NEW YORK - The US foods giant H J Heinz, headed by the Irish businessman Tony O'Reilly, turned in disappointing third-quarter results yesterday, with profits down 20 per cent from the same period the year before, writes Larry Black.

The company made dollars 128m ( pounds 86m), or 50 cents a share, during the three months to 26 January, compared with dollars 162m or 62 cents a share in the third quarter of its 1993 fiscal year. Sales also fell - to dollars 1.71bn from dollars 1.77bn, the result of a relatively strong dollar and the disposal of some divisions.

Wall Street had been expecting earnings more or less equal to the previous year's, despite early warnings that its Weight Watchers diet business was suffering from both the harsh winter in the US and the Los Angeles earthquake.

Heinz said that Weight Watchers' performance was disappointing. It has been spending heavily to promote the products but was hurt by 'fluctuating diet patterns'.

Mr O'Reilly, who has been criticised recently in the American business press for not devoting enough attention to Heinz, said the company's core brands remained strong and its food service business was doing exceptionally well.

Heinz shares fell 50 cents to dollars 31.