• Improved sales and EPS forecasts
  • Q3 "another strong quarter" - CEO
  • Company says costs ean Q4 margins lower year-on-year

US food group Hillshire Brands has outlined improved sales and earnings forecasts after a "strong" third quarter.

The Jimmy Dean meats owner now expects its annual sales to increase at a rate "in the low single digits". When the company reported its second-quarter results in February, it forecast sales to grow "slightly".

Hillshire forecast its adjusted diluted earnings per share for the year would be "at the high end of the previously provided range". In August, Hillshire had estimated its earnings would fall in a range of being flat year-on-year to down at a mid-single digit rate.

The new forecasts, issued on Monday as Hillshire gave its results for the third quarter to 29 May, sent its shares up in New York. The stock closed up over 3.4% on Monday and rose another 1.2% on Tuesday.

Hillshire booked adjusted income from continuing operations of US$57m for its fiscal third quarter. The result compared to $43m a year earlier. Adjusted operating income rose from $72m in last year's third quarter to $92m.

The improved profits came in part due to higher sales. Net sales increased 3.4% to $955m.

"The tremendous progress we have made in strengthening our brands and reducing costs is unmistakable. Despite an unusually inflationary input cost environment, we meaningfully improved our core business fundamentals and have increased our operating margins," president and CEO Sean Connolly said.

Show the press release

Hillshire Brands Continues Strong Momentum in Third Quarter

Raises Sales Guidance, Expects EPS at High End of Range

 

May 06, 2014 07:30 AM Eastern Daylight Time

CHICAGO--(BUSINESS WIRE)--The Hillshire Brands Company (NYSE: HSH) today reported results for the third quarter and first nine months of fiscal year 2014.

  • Third quarter net sales grew 3.4% to $955 million
  • Adjusted1 operating income grew 34.8% to $97 million; reported operating income grew 18.3% to $76 million
  • Adjusted diluted EPS grew 31.4% to $0.46; reported diluted EPS unchanged at $0.34
  • Fiscal 2014 sales growth expected to be in low single digits and adjusted diluted EPS at the high end of the guidance range

CEO Perspective

“The tremendous progress we have made in strengthening our brands and reducing costs is unmistakable. Despite an unusually inflationary input cost environment, we meaningfully improved our core business fundamentals and have increased our operating margins. Underlying this performance is the work we have done to improve our capabilities in areas like innovation, pricing analytics and marketing, as well as our robust productivity programs,” said Sean Connolly, president and CEO of The Hillshire Brands Company.

“In addition to our base business momentum, we are beginning to leverage our balance sheet for additional value creation, with a focus on acquisitions. Overall, while I am pleased by another strong quarter, I am most encouraged that we have validated our original investment thesis and are well positioned to deliver strong returns over the long run,” added Connolly.

Discussion of Continuing Operations Results

Net sales of $955 million were up 3.4% versus the prior year’s third quarter as positive price/mix in both the Retail and Foodservice/Other segments more than offset volume declines resulting largely from pricing actions. The company estimates the later timing of Easter negatively impacted net sales growth by approximately 130 basis points.

Adjusted operating income of $97 million increased 34.8%, and reported operating income increased 18.3% to $76 million primarily behind higher sales and non-input cost favorability. As a percent of net sales, adjusted operating income was 10.1%.

On a year-to-date basis, net sales of $3.0 billion were up 2.1% versus the prior-year period as positive price/mix more than offset volume declines. Adjusted operating income of $312 million increased 3.9% as cost efficiencies and positive mix more than offset under-recovery of input cost inflation via pricing; reported operating income decreased 0.5% to $247 million. As a percent of net sales, adjusted operating income was 10.3%.

Retail

Retail net sales were up 3.2% in the quarter versus the prior year as favorable price/mix more than offset volume declines, which were largely the result of pricing actions. Sales growth was supported by a strong MAP rate of 4.2% of total company net sales. Operating segment income increased 19.9% versus the prior year as increased sales and cost efficiencies more than offset higher input costs.

Led by Delights breakfast sandwiches, Jimmy Dean continued to post strong volume and sales growth in the quarter. The acceptance of the new products that extend Jimmy Dean beyond breakfast has also been positive. Hillshire Farm lunchmeat has continued to perform well behind strong advertising and new products. Aidells posted double-digit volume and sales growth as both smoked sausage and meatballs maintained strong momentum.

Foodservice/Other

Net sales increased 4.0% as commodity-driven pricing and favorable mix offset volume declines. Excluding commodity meat sales, net sales increased 5.3%. Operating segment income increased 9.6% versus the prior year behind increased sales and continued cost management.

Sales in the convenience store channel grew despite weather-related traffic declines. Bakery products, including the Bistro brand and Luxe Layer pies, continued to gain market share through increased distribution.

Corporate

Excluding significant items, corporate expenses for the quarter totaled $5 million, benefiting from cost favorability, timing of expenses, and $1 million of favorable mark-to-market gains.

Capital Allocation

On April 21, 2014, the Company announced a definitive agreement to acquire Van's Natural Foods. Van's is a leading better-for-you food brand that offers multiple product lines in frozen breakfast and snack foods. The company expects the transaction to close in May 2014, pending regulatory clearance, with a total purchase price of $165 million in cash.

Outlook

The company now expects full-year sales growth in the low single digits and adjusted diluted EPS to be at the high end of the previously provided range. In the fourth quarter, the company expects margins to be lower than those achieved year to date given sharply higher input costs and planned investments in merchandising to support the important grilling season.

Corporate expenses are now expected to be between $40-$45 million, excluding significant items and mark-to-market adjustments. The company continues to expect an adjusted effective tax rate of 35-36% and continues to expect net interest expense of approximately $40 million.

Webcast

The Hillshire Brands Company's review of its third quarter fiscal year 2014 results will be broadcast live via the Internet today at 9:30 a.m. CDT. The live webcast, together with the slides reviewed during the webcast, can be accessed in the Investor Relations section on www.hillshirebrands.com. For people who are unable to listen to the webcast live, a recording will be available on the website at 2:00 p.m. CDT on the day of the webcast until November 6, 2014. 

Original source: Hillshire Brands