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BATTLE CREEK, Mich. (AP) _ Kellogg Co.'s first-quarter profit climbed 81 percent on strong U.S. cereal sales and fortified by the addition of results from Keebler Foods.

The world's biggest cereal producer earned $152.6 million, or 37 cents per share, for the January-March period, compared with $84.1 million, or 21 cents per share, during the same period last year.

Excluding a gain from a legal settlement, Kellogg earned 35 cents a share for the period. That matched the consensus estimate of analysts surveyed by Thomson Financial/First Call.

Kellogg shares fell 6 cents to $35.96 at the end of regular trading on the New York Stock Exchange,.

Net sales were $2.06 billion, up 40 percent from the $1.47 billion reported during the year ago period, which did not include Keebler, acquired on March 26, 2001. Internal sales growth excluding the impact of currency translation and acquisitions was 4.4 percent.

``In 2001, we sacrificed near-term sales and profit growth in order to implement our strategy and integrate Keebler smoothly,'' Gutierrez said. ``In 2002, our goal is to accelerate our growth.''

In addition to cereals, Kellogg is a leading maker of convenience foods. Its brands include Keebler, Pop-Tarts, Eggo, Cheez-It and Famous Amos.


On the Net:

Kellogg Co., http://www.kelloggs.com