Sluggish sales weigh on Mondelēz earnings

by Eric Schroeder
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DEERFIELD, ILL. — Continued strength in the U.S. cookies business spurred stronger sales in North America, but challenges in gum in developed markets weighed on second-quarter results at Mondelēz International Inc.

Net income in the second quarter ended June 30 was $616 million, equal to 34c per share on the common stock, down 40% from $1,029 million, or 58c per share, in the same quarter in 2012. Results for the prior-year quarter included earnings from discontinued operations of $544 million. Excluding the items, adjusted earnings for the second quarter of fiscal 2013 were 37c per share, compared with 36c per share a year ago. Net sales were $8,595 million, up 0.8% from $8,527 million.

“Faster top-line growth in emerging markets, strong volume/mix gains and increasing market shares globally drove our first-half business performance, which was in line with the expectations we outlined earlier in the year,” said Irene Rosenfeld, chairman and chief executive officer. “For the second half of 2013, we expect our top-line growth to accelerate from investments in emerging markets and continued momentum on our global snacking platforms and Power Brands, despite indications of slowing category growth in key markets such as China, Brazil and Russia. On the bottom line, we expect margins to expand through overhead leverage as well as continued aggressive focus on cost reduction efforts.”

Operating income in North America was $225 million, unchanged (on an adjusted basis) from $225 million in the second quarter in 2012. Sales were $1,707 million, up 2.3%. The sales gain broke down as 3.2% from volume and mix, which more than offset a 0.9% decline in price.

“U.S. biscuits was a standout, with revenues up more than 5% in the second quarter,” Ms. Rosenfeld said during an Aug. 7 conference call with analysts. “In fact, that represents the eighth consecutive quarter of growth of 5% or more. Oreo, Honeymade, belVita, Chips Ahoy! and Triscuit each made solid contributions to the second half.

“This business continues to benefit from the renewed focus on in-store execution by our direct-store delivery sales force following the spin. For example, through our ‘One More in the Store’ initiative, we increased the number of displays nearly 17% in Q2. D.S.D. is also a key enabler to get our new products on shelves. In the first half, 9 of the top 10 new biscuit products in the U.S. were ours. As a result, our market share is up 140 basis points in the quarter and 100 points year to date.

“In contrast, gum and candy was down high single digits. Candy once again delivered solid gains, but gum declined sharply as our customers reset their shelf assortments. … Our gum share in the U.S. has improved, gaining 0.4 point in Q2 and 1 full point in the last two weeks of the quarter. From a margin perspective, we have a lot of work to do, but we’re making progress toward our goal of increasing margin by 500 basis points over the next five years.”

On the expansion front, Ms. Rosenfeld elaborated on Mondelēz’s plans to build the world’s largest biscuit/cookie plant, which was first announced a month ago. She said the company will invest $350 million in the construction of the new facility in Mexico.

The new plant will have five production lines and will start operating in mid-2014.

“When its doors open in the second half of 2014, this facility will support biscuit growth across the Americas and will enhance margins by utilizing state-of-the-art technologies that enable manufacturing at world class costs,” Ms. Rosenfeld said.

For the six months ended June 30, net income was $1,184 million, or 66c per share, down 36% from $1,842 million, or $1.04 per share, in the same period a year ago. Net sales increased 0.8% to $17,339 million from $17,194 million. Operating income fell 8% to $1,699 million from $1,840 million.

In addition to its financials, Mondelēz on Aug. 7 said its board of directors approved a “significant increase” in its share repurchase program to $6 billion from $1.2 billion through 2016, and an 8% increase in the company’s quarterly dividend to 14c per share.

“We believe the combination of strong top-line growth in emerging markets, double-digit e.p.s. gains, higher dividends and a substantial increase in share buybacks creates a highly attractive mix that will deliver superior shareholder returns,” Ms. Rosenfeld said.

Updating guidance, David Brearton, executive vice-president and chief financial officer, said the company expects revenue growth and margin expansion to accelerate in the second half of the year as Mondelēz leverages volume/mix, market shares and first-half growth investments, and as the headwinds from coffee pricing and capacity constraints begin to subside.

“We continue to expect to deliver organic net revenue growth at the low-end of our long-term target range of 5% to 7%, despite indications in some key markets of slowing category growth,” Mr. Brearton said. “Margins are also expected to improve in the second half, due to increased leverage from revenue growth and aggressive productivity and cost reduction efforts.

“In addition, we reaffirmed our 2013 adjusted e.p.s. outlook of $1.55 to $1.60. We’re accelerating our 2014 emerging market investments into 2013, offsetting the impact with a portion of the benefits from discrete tax items. Our ability to incrementally invest in emerging markets this year, while continuing to deliver double-digit e.p.s. growth, lays the foundation for top-line growth and margin expansion in 2014.”

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