(Adds tax benefit details, CEO comment, updates share price)
By Theopolis Waters and Tom Polansek
CHICAGO, Feb 8 (Reuters) - Tyson Foods Inc, the largest U.S. meat processor, reported better-than-expected revenue and profit on Thursday, aided by benefits from the U.S. tax overhaul along with stronger sales of beef products and higher-margin prepared foods.
Shares of the maker of Ball Park hotdogs and Jimmy Dean sausages rose as much as 5.8 percent and at midday were 0.9 percent higher at $74.06.
Tyson forecast more than $300 million in savings in fiscal 2018 related to the overhaul of U.S. tax laws, with more than $100 million in cash bonuses paid to employees.
The company expects an adjusted effective tax rate of about 24 percent this year, down from 34 percent last year. “This is obviously significant for us,” Tyson Chief Executive Tom Hayes said on a conference call.
Tyson has sought to ensure higher profit by investing in prepared meals and heat-and-serve items. It bought sandwich supplier AdvancePierre Foods in 2017 for about $3.2 billion.
In an effort to broaden its protein-based portfolio, Tyson’s $150 million venture-capital arm has also invested in startups that make smart ovens, meat grown in labs and plant-based protein products.
Still, increased demand for beef and chicken products helped Tyson and other meat processors such as Smithfield Foods in recent quarters.
Sales in Tyson’s beef business, its biggest, rose 10.1 percent in the first quarter, while sales increased by 21 percent in the prepared foods segment.
U.S. beef export volume in 2017 was the fourth-largest on record and an all-time high in value, said the U.S. Meat Export Federation, helped by the low dollar.
The Springdale, Arkansas, company raised its fiscal 2018 earnings forecast to between $6.55 and $6.70 a share - including the lower tax rate benefit - from a prior forecast of between $5.70 and $5.85
Net income attributable to the company nearly tripled to $1.63 billion, or $4.40 per share, in the quarter ended Dec. 30.
Excluding items, the company earned $1.81 per share, much above the average analyst estimate of $1.50, according to Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S.
Tyson’s net revenue rose 11.4 percent to $10.23 billion. Analysts on average had expected $9.87 billion.
Higher freight and labor costs present challenges to Tyson’s bottom line and will be passed on to the meat case, said Hayes, adding that freight costs will rise by $200 million.
“Freight is a tough one,” he said. “Ultimately the consumer is going to pay for it at some point.” (Reporting by Uday Sampath in Bengaluru and Theopolis Waters and Tom Polansek in Chicago; Editing by Andrew Hay and Matthew Lewis)