Dole Food Suffers 4th-Quarter Loss

Dole Food Co.'s shares dropped 10 percent on Tuesday after a weak fourth-quarter earnings report and as the entire market fell on worry over Japan.

NEW YORK (AP) -- Dole Food Co.'s shares dropped 10 percent on Tuesday after a weak fourth-quarter earnings report and as the entire market fell on worry over Japan. But at least one analyst remained upbeat and set the outlook for fruit is likely to improve in 2011.

Late Monday, Dole Food Co., which grows and distributes fruit and vegetables and packaged foods, reported a fourth-quarter loss due to higher costs in Latin America and lower banana pricing in Asia.

Bad weather hurt banana production in Latin America, and the temporary closure of the Iranian market drove down banana pricing in all Asian markets during the period, Dole said.

Shares fell $1.49, or 10.4 percent, to $12.83 in morning trading. The stock has traded between $8.57 and $14.99 during the past 52 weeks.

But one analyst remained positive on the stock and said the fourth quarter will likely be a bottom for the Westlake Village, Calif., company.

"Pricing appears to have already returned to profitable territory and is strengthening further due to reduced Latin American supplies and a normalizing Asian market," said Janney Capital Markets analyst Jonathan Feeney, who rates the company "Buy."

He said cash flow should improve in 2011 as banana profit recovers and the company sells assets and saves money with a restructuring.
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