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UPDATE 1-Hershey forecasts 2021 outlook above estimates as holiday sales boost Q4

(Adds background, compares with estimates)

Feb 4 (Reuters) - Hershey Co forecast 2021 profit and sales above Wall Street expectations on Thursday, after posting better-than-expected fourth-quarter results, driven by recent price increases and strong demand for its products, including Twizzlers, S’mores and Candy Dish.

People working or attending classes from home and spending the holidays with their families amid fresh restrictions due to rising COVID-19 infections in the United States and Europe turned to comfort food, boosting demand for syrup, cocoa and chips.

The chocolatier projects 2021 net sales to grow by 2% to 4%, compared with analysts’ average estimate of a 2.94% rise.

It also expects full-year earnings per share to grow by 6% to 8%, while analysts on average expect a rise of 5.73%.

Net sales rose 5.7% to $2.19 billion, beating analysts’ average estimate of $2.11 billion, according to IBES data from Refinitiv.

Net income attributable to the company rose to $291.4 million, or $1.39 per share, in the fourth quarter ended Dec. 31, from $207.2 million, or 98 cents per share, a year earlier.

Excluding one-time items, the company earned $1.49 per share, topping analysts’ average estimate of $1.43 per share. (Reporting by Mehr Bedi in Bengaluru; Editing by Vinay Dwivedi)

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