A different view of Smithfield Foods emerged from a BMO Capital Markets Agriculture, Protein and Fertilizer Conference in New York on Wednesday. C. Larry Pope, Smithfield chief executive officer, said the company will change its focus toward a consumer packaged goods strategy, according to Meatingplace.com.

Smithfield officials drew a picture of a company driven by brand affinity and retail sales, rather than by the volatile commodity margins that have rocked the company's financials in the past. “People buy Smithfield brands under different banners over a billion times a year," Pope said. "We've changed the basic drivers of this business and I want to show you where we stand relative to that.”

Smithfield will announce its fiscal 2010 full-year results in a few weeks.

Smithfield has been, and will continue, to "migrate" smaller brands into appropriate larger brands, and expects to reduce its portfolio of some 100 brand names internationally to about a dozen, Pope said.

Pope also noted Smithfield's improved financial liquidity and 25 percent reduction in overall debt, to about $3 billion. He said that Smithfield intends to pay down another $1 billion in debt.

Pope added that the company does not plan on increasing the size of its sow herd despite increasing hog prices. "The company anticipates — and I hate making projections — that the hog production side should be in a period of good profitability," since the sow herd has been reduced in the last year and prices have risen.

Supply probably will rise in response to higher prices but the company has no plans to boost the size of its herd now that prices are up, Pope said.

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Source: Meatingplace.com