OMAHA -- Focusing on what it calls its ''highest potential brands," ConAgra Foods Inc. said yesterday it plans to sell its seafood and cheese lines in addition to the planned sale of its refrigerated meats businesses.
The company behind brands like Healthy Choice, Hunts and Chef Boyardee also cut its dividend by 34 percent and said it would record an unspecified amount of restructuring charges over the rest of the year.
ConAgra said the restructuring costs would lower operating earnings until fiscal 2009, when it expects to return to current earnings levels.
Its shares tumbled 91 cents on the New York Stock Exchange.
The product and brand divestitures are part of a sweeping effort to streamline its product line and its operations.
''It is essential that we increase our investments behind our highest potential brands, simplify our portfolio of businesses and build a high-quality earnings trajectory," said Gary Rodkin, president and chief executive.
The company said it would specify the amount and nature of the restructuring charges in its next earnings release, scheduled for March 23.
The quarterly dividend will fall to 18 cents a share, down from the 27.25 cents ConAgra has paid since December 2004. The new dividend is payable on June 1 to shareholders of record as of May 1.
The seafood businesses contributed an estimated $350 million in sales in 2005, said Tania Graves, ConAgra's senior director of public affairs. It produces shrimp and other breaded seafood products under the Singleton and Meridian names. The cheese lines contributed $200 million in sales for 2005, Graves said.