WESTCHESTER, ILL. — The coronavirus (COVID-19) is affecting Ingredion, Inc. in all geographic areas of the company’s global operations, but the timing varies. Business in Asia is starting to recover. Decreased demand for foodservice began hurting North America late in the first quarter, and the second quarter could be especially difficult for South America.
The uncertainty of COVID-19 has Ingredion dropping its outlook for the year. Previous full-year guidance of 2020 earnings per share, cash from operations and net sales outlook is no longer applicable, said James D. Gray, executive vice president and chief financial officer, in a May 5 earnings call.
“We have moderate visibility into quarter two but cannot fully predict how consumer behavior will evolve in response to infection rates in different locations for the remainder of the year,” Mr. Gray said. “In quarter two, we anticipate that net sales will be down versus prior year in each reporting segment.”
Ingredion on May 5 said net income in the first quarter ended March 31 totaled $78 million, or $1.11 per share on the common stock, down 24% from $102 million, or $1.48 per share, in the previous year’s first quarter. Net sales of $1.54 billion were flat when compared with net sales in the previous year’s first quarter. A negative foreign exchange impact offset a favorable price mix.
Ingredion’s stock price on the New York Stock Exchange closed at $82.25 per share on May 5, which was up 4.4% from a close of $78.81 on May 4.
“We are pleased with our results for the quarter,” said James P. Zallie, president and chief executive officer. “Amid macroeconomic disruptions, we delivered solid operational and financial results. This was driven by healthy demand for our products, continued growth of our specialty portfolio and further progress to streamline our organization.”
Within North America, operating income of $125 million in the first quarter was flat when compared to the previous year’s operating income in the first quarter. Net sales of $963 million were up 1% from $951 million in the previous year’s first quarter. Going forward, Ingredion expects reduced demand in foodservice in North America. Foodservice makes up about 20% to 25% of Ingredion’s business in the continent, Mr. Zallie said.
Temporary government mandates brought on by COVID-19 have halted brewing in Mexico, leading Ingredion to expect decreases in net sales and operating income in North America in the second quarter, Mr. Gray said.
Within South America, operating income rose 44% to $26 million in the first quarter, and net sales increased 4% to $237 million.
“In South America, operating income is likely to be down much more significantly based on the fact that, that region is being hit hardest now,” Mr. Zallie said of the second quarter. “They are equally in the Southern Hemisphere and entering flu season right now, and the number of cases there continues to increase.”
Within Asia-Pacific, operating income of $20 million in the first quarter was flat while net sales dropped 7% to $189 million. Business has bounced back strongly in Asia, especially in China, Mr. Zallie said.
In Europe, the Middle East and Africa (EMEA), operating income jumped 13% to $27 million in the first quarter. Favorable price mix more than offset negative foreign currency impacts. Net sales of $154 million were flat. Going forward, Ingredion expects strong specialty sales in Europe.
Companywide, Ingredion will take steps to ensure it has enough capital to operate, Mr. Gray said.
“We anticipate stable cash flow in line with changes to operating income,” he said. “Committed capital investments are anticipated to be between $285 million to $305 million assuming that equipment orders, access to our sites and contractor safety can be maintained.”