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Wednesday, March 29, 2000

Dole says earnings
to top forecasts

It also announces it has
dropped plans to sell part
or all of the company to
a Philippine firm

By Russ Lynch


Dole Food Co. shares soared 10 percent today after the company said it expects to make a first-quarter profit that will exceed analysts' expectations and that it has dropped talks about selling the company.

Dole Foods Co. Discussions about possible business combinations with various parties, including the big Philippines food and beverage business San Miguel Corp., have ended and there are no plans to sell part or all of the company, Dole said. There were reports earlier this week that Manila-based San Miguel was prepared to buy Dole Chairman David Murdock's 24 percent stake in Dole and possibly a much-larger stake.

Dole said it expects first-quarter earnings to be between 60 and 65 cents a share. The average estimate of five analysts who follow the company was for first-quarter earnings of nearly 51 cents a share, according to a survey by IBES International.

In the first quarter of last year, not counting a one-time insurance payment from Central American banana crop damage caused by Hurricane Mitch, Dole had a profit of 52 cents a share.

Dole's stock, traded on the New York Stock Exchange, soared $1.62 to close at $17.75.

The company said last year's cost-cutting in its banana business is working and that its North American citrus business continues to recover from the 1998-99 winter freeze in California.

Its brewery and soft drink businesses in Honduras has also recovered from the hurricane damage, Dole said, and the company expects higher earnings from streamlining its banana business. Also helping revenues is a new sweet, yellow variety of pineapple, Dole said.

The company, founded in Hawaii in the mid-1800s and now based in Westlake Village, Calif., had retained Goldman Sachs & Co. to look for opportunities such as mergers to enhance shareholder value. "As a result of this engagement, the board of directors has concluded that a complete sale of the company at this time would not result in its shareholders receiving the full intrinsic value of the company's businesses," said Dole's statement today.

Dole, however, said that "in the normal course of business" it will continue to pursue "strategic acquisitions and dispositions." Among them, the company said, was the possible sale of its Honduran brewery and soft drink unit and other noncore assets and underperforming units.

Dole is one of Hawaii's largest private land owners.

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