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Buy Conagra as it catches up with the competition, UBS says in upgrade

It’s time to buy Conagra as it catches up to its rivals, according to UBS. Analyst Cody Ross upgraded shares of Conagra to buy from neutral. He said the stock is lagging its peers even as the packaged food company signals a better earnings growth trajectory ahead. “We believe CAG is in the early innings of a positive estimate revision cycle driven by: (1) strong momentum in the Nielsen scanner data YTD, (2) is one of the few companies in our coverage that is growing both vol share and HH penetration suggesting the health of its portfolio is improving, and (3) increasing B/S optionality that should provide additional levers to grow EPS at a 6% CAGR over the next three yrs (vs Street’s 5% estimate),” Ross wrote in a Friday note. “Despite these tailwinds, CAG’s stock is lagging lg cap packaged food peers this year (+2.6% vs lg cap peers +14.3%) and is trading at a 20% discount to lg cap packaged food peers compared to its 5-yr avg of 11% (EV/EBITDA),” he added. The analyst raised his 12-month price target to $41 from $35. The new target implies roughly 17% upside from Thursday’s close of $34.94. Shares of Conagra popped 2.6% in Friday premarket trading. The maker of Hunts and Chef Boyardee products has fallen behind the competition as it struggled to meet its own guidance in recent years, according to the note. Shares of Conagra are up 2.3% in 2022, while shares of peers such as General Mills and Kellogg have jumped more than 18% and 8% this year, respectively. Still, the analyst expects that Conagra will be on “more firm footing to grow in line with its categories moving forward,” given the company’s recent investments into product innovations. “We believe this is one of the few lg cap packaged food stocks that has solid visibility to earnings upside and anticipate the stock will re-rate to its historical level relative to the group in time,” he added. –CNBC’s Michael Bloom contributed to this report.

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