Despite low sales, Hormel up in earnings

Published 10:30 am Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Hormel Foods Corp. saw record earnings in 2015, but its sales for the year were down 1 percent from its 2014 record.

On Tuesday morning, the Austin-based company reported profit of $686.1 million, or $2.54 per share. Revenue was reported as $9.3 billion, which was down 1 percent from last year.

“We are pleased to report a strong finish to fiscal 2015,” CEO and Chairman of the Board Jeffrey Ettinger said.



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Hormel is already looking ahead to a busy 2016. The company announced it is looking to sell off a portion of Diamond Crystal Brands business because it no longer fits with its strategic vision. Ettinger said the company will use the additional capital to explore things that better suit the company’s goals.

James Snee, who was named Hormel president and chief operating officer earlier this year, said the company foresees higher capital investments in 2016. The company plans to finish a roughly $350 million Spam processing plant for Chinese consumers for it to start production late next year. Hormel is also expanding its research and development opportunities through its new facility, which is being built on 13.5 acres at 2207 and 2107 Eighth Drive NE in Austin. The facility is expected to be completed next year.

The company announced plans for a double digit increase in 2016 in advertising to focus on Rev Snack Wraps, Hormel party trays, Hormel pepperoni, Spam, Skippy, Muscle Milk and Jennie-O’s Make the Switch campaign.

For 2016, Hormel expects full-year earnings to be $2.85 to $2.95 per share.

“I am pleased with our momentum heading into fiscal 2016, and we should enjoy renewed revenue growth as the year proceeds,” Ettinger said in a press release.

Ettinger said the company is looking from a strong year from recently acquired Applegate natural and organic products and a recovery from Jennie-O Turkey Store, which was hit hard by the avian flu outbreak.

It also expects to see growth from its Muscle Milk line in Specialty Foods and from the expansion of Spam products into China.

Hormel shares have climbed 33 percent since the beginning of the year, while the Standard & Poor’s 500 index has climbed slightly more than 1 percent. The stock has climbed 27 percent in the last 12 months.

Fourth quarter summary

Hormel Foods also reported fiscal fourth-quarter earnings of $187.2 million.

“I am proud of the excellent fourth quarter delivered by our team, achieving record earnings for the tenth straight quarter,” Ettinger said in a press release. “We reported record bottom line results for the full year, with fiscal 2015 adjusted net earnings up 19 percent over last year and all five segments registering earnings growth.”

On a per-share basis, the Austin-based company said it had profit of 69 cents. Earnings, adjusted for one-time gains and costs, were 74 cents per share.

The results topped Wall Street expectations. The average estimate of five analysts surveyed by Zacks Investment Research was for earnings of 68 cents per share.

The company saw good contributions in the quarter from long-standing brands like Spam luncheon meat, Hormel pepperoni and Dinty Moore stew, along with more recently created or acquired product lines such as Hormel Gatherings party trays, Hormel Natural Choice meats, Wholly Guacamole dips, and Muscle Milk protein nutrition products.

But there were challenges.

“We did face some headwinds during the year, including lower revenues impacted by declining pork markets and the loss of sales and operational efficiency related to highly pathogenic avian influenza in the Jennie-O Turkey Store segment. Our experienced team navigated these challenges to post this impressive bottom line performance,” Ettinger said in the release.

Jennie-O profit dropped 23 percent in the fourth quarter, and dollar sales dropped 18 percent.

“The decreases stemmed from the substantial impact of the avian influenza outbreak, as flocks lost earlier in the year created large volume shortfalls in operations and sales,” the company said in a press release.

However, Ettinger said Jennie-O is primed to rebound and grow by the end of fiscal 2016 if there’s not another outbreak; however, he noted the company is still rebuilding from bird losses.

Grocery Products operating profit increased 57 percent in part due to favorable raw material costs, improved plant efficiencies, and higher equity in earnings. Sales were up 4 percent, and increased sales of Dinty Moore stew and Hormel chili, along with Wholly Guacamole dips in MegaMex Foods joint venture, contributed to the gains.

Refrigerated Foods operating profit rose 27 percent, which was driven by the company’s affiliated business units, along with the addition of the Applegate business, higher pork operating margins, and improved product mix. Dollar sales were down 5 percent, which was driven by lower pricing compared to 2014’s record high pork markets and the dissolution of the Precept Foods joint venture.

Specialty Foods operating profit increased 63 percent, while sales dropped 3 percent. Hormel says results reflect synergies captured within the CytoSport and Century Foods supply chain and a beneficial comparison to prior year, which included CytoSport acquisition-related costs of $9.3 million. The company said CytoSports is meeting expectations.

International & Other operating profit rose 3 percent, while dollar were sales flat. Results were driven by strong Spam luncheon meat exports and continued growth of our China business, muted by soft demand for fresh pork exports in certain markets.

Effective Nov. 16, the company paid its 349th consecutive quarterly dividend, at the annual rate of $1.

—The Associated Press contributed to this report.