Conagra Brands (NYSE: CAG) reported an 82% surge in earnings for the fourth quarter of 2019 helped by lower expenses as well as higher revenue. However, the results missed analysts’ expectations. Further, the packaged food company lowered its earnings guidance for fiscal 2020.
Net income attributable to the company soared 82% to $127 million or $0.26 per share. However, adjusted earnings fell 28% to $0.36 per share, due to lower operating profit for Legacy Conagra, the removal of profit from divested businesses, higher interest expense, and lower earnings in the Ardent Mills joint venture.
Net sales soared 33% to $2.61 billion. The growth reflects a 34% jump from the acquisition of Pinnacle, the divestitures of the Wesson oil business and the Canadian Del Monte business, and the sale of the Trenton facility. It also reflects a 0.3% decline from the impacts of foreign exchange, and a 0.7% decrease in organic net sales, excluding Trenton.
Looking ahead into fiscal 2020, the company expects net sales growth in the range of 13.5% to 14%. Total company organic net sales growth is now expected to be in the range of 1% to 1.5%. The company now expects adjusted earnings in the range of $2.08 to $2.18 per share compared to the previous estimate range of $2.10 to $2.20 per share. The adjusted earnings guidance cut reflected the historical profit contribution from the Gelit divestiture business.
For fiscal 2022, the company expects adjusted earnings in the range of $2.68 to $2.78 per share and organic sales growth 3-year CAGR of 1% to 2%. Adjusted operating margin is predicted to be 18% to 19%.
For the fourth quarter, sales for the Grocery & Snacks segment fell by 7% due to the divestiture of the Wesson oil business. Sales from the Refrigerated & Frozen segment decreased 0.6% due to the effects of lower than expected merchandising support on Marie Callender’s, the impact of a P.F. Chang’s recall, continued brand building investments with retailers, and continued declines in certain refrigerated businesses.
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Sales for the International segment fell by 7.4% due to the divestitures of the Canadian Del Monte business and the Wesson oil business. Sales for the Foodservice segment decreased by 12.6% as the sale of the Trenton facility and divestiture of the Wesson oil business reduced the net sales growth rate by 12 percentage points.
Net sales for the Pinnacle segment totaled $757 million in the period, in line with the company’s expectations. Consumption continued to decline as the company continued to execute its value-over-volume strategy within the Pinnacle portfolio.
Beginning with the first quarter of fiscal 2020, the Company will no longer report Pinnacle as a standalone reporting segment. The business components comprising the Pinnacle segment will be allocated to one of the four Legacy Conagra reporting segments. The company plans to provide restated segment financial data concurrent with the release of its first quarter fiscal 2020 earnings.
Shares of Conagra ended Wednesday’s regular session up 0.14% at $28.93 on the NYSE. Following the earnings release, the stock plunged over 5% in the premarket session.
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