General Mills (NYSE:GIS) announced its results for the most recent quarter on September 19, 2012. General Mills is a manufacturer and marketer of branded consumer foods sold through retail stores. It also supplies branded and unbranded food products to the food service and commercial baking industries.

Earnings are perhaps the single most studied number in a company's financial statements because they show a company's profitability. SEE: Everything Investors Need To Know About Earnings

The Numbers: General Mills' EPS outpaced analyst estimates while the company's revenues came in below predictions. The company reported adjusted net income of 66 cents per share versus the 63 cents per share estimate and revenues of $4.05 billion versus the $4.11 billion estimate. Revenue climbed 5.3% from the same period last year. General Mills' revenue has grown during each of the past four quarters on a year-over-year basis. Net income for the first quarter was $548.9 million. According to the reported number, this is up 35.3% from last year's figures.

Management Quote: Chairman and Chief Executive Officer Ken Powell said this start has the company on pace to achieve its fiscal 2013 targets. "Results for the first quarter were broadly consistent with our plans, and included sequential improvement in our volume and gross margin trends from the fourth quarter of 2012," he said.

A Look Back: Margins were up in the fourth quarter of the last fiscal year, following a drop in the previous quarter. Gross margins grew to 40.2%, up 2.6 percentage points from the year-earlier quarter. In the third quarter of the last fiscal year, the figure rose 0.8 percentage point to 36.8% from the year earlier quarter.

Net income has dropped 1% year-over-year on average across the last five quarters. Performance was hurt by a 27.5% decline in the second quarter of the last fiscal year from the year-earlier quarter.

Looking Ahead: Analysts appear increasingly negative about the company's results for the next quarter. The average estimate for the second quarter has moved down from 82 cents a share to 80 cents over the last 30 days. A decreasing earning estimate is a negative sign and usually leads to a drop in the stock price. For the fiscal year, the average estimate has moved down from $2.76 a share to $2.66 over the last 60 days.

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