Changes looming at General Mills

by Keith Nunes
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General Mills has initiated a strategic review with the objective to accelerate earnings growth in fiscal 2015.

 

MINNEAPOLIS — Stalled earnings growth in fiscal 2014 has prompted General Mills, Inc. to initiate a strategic review of its manufacturing and distribution network in North America with the goal of improving efficiencies and to identify potential capacity reductions.

“Our No.1 objective in the new fiscal year is to accelerate our top-line growth,” said Ken Powell, chairman and chief executive officer. “Our fiscal 2015 plans include a strong new product lineup, compelling news or renovation on many existing brands, and a full slate of consumer-focused marketing initiatives. In addition, supply chain cost-savings from our ongoing Holistic Margin Management program are expected to exceed $400 million in 2015.  We anticipate these savings will offset input cost inflation, which we estimate at 3% for the new year.

In 2014, General Mills generated net income of $1,824.4 million, equal to $2.90 per share on the common stock, and a 1.7% decline compared with fiscal 2013 earnings. Sales during the year rose nearly 1% to $17,909.6 million when compared with fiscal 2013.

“Our plans for 2014 called for sales and earnings growth consistent with our long-term business model, along with increased cash returns to shareholders,” Mr. Powell said. “We made good progress building our worldwide food businesses, and we returned more than $2.7 billion in cash to shareholders through a 17% dividend increase and significant share repurchase activity. But our sales and operating profit results were disappointing. In the fourth quarter, promotional spending in developed markets was less effective than we planned and input cost inflation was a bit above our forecast. Net sales and adjusted gross margin fell short of our targets.”

During the fourth quarter, General Mills recorded a net income of $404.6 million, equal to 66c per share, and an 11% increase compared with the same period during the previous year. Sales during the quarter fell 3% to $4,283.8 million compared with fiscal 2013.

General Mills’ announcement comes seven months after The Kellogg Co., Battle Creek, Mich., implemented a similar initiative called Project K. The program is a four-year effort designed to streamline Kellogg’s global infrastructure and reduce the company’s workforce by 7%. In North America, the company has announced plans to close a ready-to-eat cereal plant in London, Ont., and a snacks plant in Charlotte, N.C.
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