Tyson chickens out in third quarter

(AP) -- The rising price of grain and slow chicken sales have slammed US food giant Tyson Foods Inc. The company saw third-quarter earnings plummet from $111 million in 2007 to $9 million this year. According to the company, the cost of grain increased by $140 million in the third quarter and is expected to be up $550 million for fiscal 2008.

As we reported previously, Tyson is looking to emerging markets to offset losses at home. In the past two months, Tyson has taken a 51% stake in Mumbai-based Godrej Foods Ltd. and a 60% stake in the Chinese poultry processor Xinchang Group. At the same time, it's been trimming the fat closer to home. In June Tyson announced it would divest Lakeside Farm Industries Ltd. and Lakeside Packers, two of beef processing, cattle feed yard and fertilizer assets, based in Alberta, Canada, to XL Foods Inc. for $106 million.

Tyson isn't alone in seeking growth overseas. Difficult conditions in North America have sparked a wave of cross-border deals in the meat industry.

Tyson has contracts with retailers and restaurants at fixed prices. The company has been bound by agreements that locked in lower prices for those big customers while grain prices have skyrocketed.

Tyson now aims to negotiate new contracts with fast-food chains and other big buyers of its products in the coming months. Instead of lasting a year, Tyson wants the new contracts to run for 90 days so the company can more quickly adapt to cost changes.