updated 4/19/2006 4:43:16 PM ET 2006-04-19T20:43:16

Kraft Foods Inc., the nation's largest food company, reported a 41 percent jump in first-quarter earnings Wednesday thanks partly to cost savings from an ongoing two-year restructuring.

Kraft, the maker of Oscar Mayer hot dogs, Oreo cookies and Jell-O, also said a slight increase in sales had benefited its bottom line.

Net income was $1.01 billion, or 61 cents per share, up from $713 million, or 42 cents per share, a year earlier.

Excluding asset impairment, restructuring and other items, Kraft said earnings were 45 cents per share.

Analysts polled by Thomson Financial had pegged earnings at 42 cents per share.

Revenue was $8.12 billion, up 0.8 percent from $8.06 billion a year earlier but short of the $8.2 billion expected by analysts.

The company, which is majority-owned by Altria Group Inc., reaffirmed its guidance for the year of earnings per share between $1.55 and $1.60.

Struggling along with other packaged-food manufacturers, Kraft has been trying to accelerate a shift to healthier snacks and other items as it seeks to snap out of its long slump.

The world's No. 2 food company behind Switzerland's Nestle SA also has closed 19 plants, eliminated 5,500 jobs and sold businesses with revenues totaling over $1 billion since the beginning of 2004 as part of a companywide overhaul. But Wall Street has been disappointed that the cutbacks haven't yet produced significantly stronger sales and profits.

Kraft shares rose 23 cents to close at $29.53 on the New York Stock Exchange before the report was released. In after-hours trading, they declined 1 cent to $29.52.


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