CAMDEN, N.J., JUNE 29 -- Campbell Soup Co. said today it would sell its U.S. and Canadian fresh foods and fresh produce businesses, closing or selling a score of plants in a strategy of focusing on the company's more profitable units.
The restructuring -- the third in the past year -- affects about 3,000 jobs and includes the sale of businesses with annual revenue of more than $300 million.
The moves will result in after-tax charges of $247 million against net income for the fiscal year ending July 29, although the company did not say whether it would post an overall profit for the year.
''We are clearing the decks of unprofitable and non-strategic businesses, while bringing our plant capacity more in line with manufacturing requirements,'' Campbell's chief executive officer, David W. Johnson, said in a news release.
Campbell stock rose 75 cents to $57.25 on the New York Stock Exchange today.
Pavlos M. Alexandrakis, an analyst with Argus Research in New York, said the restructuring was no surprise on Wall Street. He noted that Johnson was brought in from Gerber Products Co. in January because of his experience in turning around beleaguered companies.
Campbell's sluggish performance and depressed stock price recently have made it the target of frequent takeover rumors. Some members of the founding Dorrance family, which owns a major stake, have urged a sale of the entire company.
Campbell posted a profit of $13.1 million, or 10 cents a share, in fiscal 1989, down 95 percent from $274.1 million, or $2.12 per share, a year earlier largely because of previous restructuring costs. Revenue rose 16 percent to $5.67 billion in fiscal 1989 from $4.87 billion.
The company has tried to remain independent by divesting underperforming businesses and by closing plants, cutting costs and laying off hundreds of workers. In moves earlier this year, Campbell eliminated about 8,000 jobs.
''David Johnson is doing what he has to to keep the company independent,'' said John M. McMillin, a food industry analyst with Prudential-Bache in New York. ''He's selling off the bad pieces of Campbell and trying to earn more with the good pieces.''
Campbell has been described as a laggard in the food industry, slow to update facilities and products. The company's dominance in the soup market has dropped in recent years and Campbell has struggled to gain an upper hand in the fast-growing dry soup market.
Herbert M. Baum, president of Campbell North America, said it was a tough decision to leave the fresh foods and fresh produce businesses because they had strong potential. But those businesses weren't yet profitable enough to keep.
Campbell will sell its Fresh Food Group, which includes facilities in eight states. The company also announced plans to sell Mrs. Giles refrigerated salads, based in Lynchburg, Calif., and Marie's salad dressings, which has a plant in Thornton, Ill.
Other businesses that will be sold include Campbell's Sumter, S.C., frozen poultry operation; a Pepperidge Farm Inc. plant in Grand Prairie, Tex.; and an equipment manufacturing center in Moorestown, N.J.