Tyson Foods Inc. produced returns in fiscal 2009 at or above normalized levels in beef, pork and prepared foods, and its chicken business improved significantly from the first to the second half of fiscal 2009, according to Ted Jones, Tyson's vice president and treasurer.

"Our chicken segment's operating margin improved from (negative) 7.2% in the first half of fiscal 2009 to 3.5% in the second half," Jones said, speaking at the Bank of America Merrill Lynch Credit Conference. "We are still working to get chicken where it should be, but we're starting the new fiscal year strong. We're about two-thirds into our first quarter, and we're pleased with how we're doing."

He credited the company’s performance to several factors, including operational efficiencies and shortening the length of its customer contracts, which allows more timely price adjustments in response to input costs. Jones said one of the company's key financial goals for 2010 is to reduce net debt. Tyson bought back $293 million of its bonds in fiscal 2009.

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