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UPDATE 1-General Mills' profit beats estimates as costs fall

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Sept 21 General Mills Inc reported a better-than-expected quarterly profit as lower expenses and cost-cutting programs helped limit the impact of weak sales in the United States.

The maker of Cheerios cereal has been cutting jobs and selling less profitable brands - such as the Green Giant frozen vegetable business - amid falling sales as customers increasingly shift to foods perceived as healthier.

Cost of sales for the first quarter ended Aug. 28 fell 6 percent to $2.5 billion, while selling, general and administrative expenses were down 12 percent.

The net income attributable to the company fell to $409 million, or 67 cents per share, from $426.6 million, or 69 cents per share, a year earlier.

Excluding certain items, the company earned 78 cents per share, beating the average analyst estimate of 75 cents per share, according to Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S.

The company's net sales fell 7 percent - down for the fifth straight quarter - to $3.91 billion, but were in line with the average analyst estimate.

Sales were hurt mainly by weak demand for its Yoplait yogurt and Progresso soup and the sale of the Green Giant frozen vegetable business.

The company's shares were up slightly in premarket trading on Wednesday. (Reporting by Gayathree Ganesan in Bengaluru; Editing by Saumyadeb Chakrabarty)

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