Rosenfeld "bullish" on sales growth outlook

Rosenfeld "bullish" on sales growth outlook

Mondelez International has again insisted it is well-paced to deliver "top-tier" growth and meet its long-term revenue targets, in spite of weaker-than-expected sales in 2012.

Last week, the company reported its net revenue dropped by 2.2% last year. Organic sales increased by 4.4% but short of Mondelez's organic sales target of 5-7% growth.

Nevertheless, addressing analysts and investors at the Consumer Analyst Group of New York conference yesterday (19 February) management struck to its guns and insisted the snack maker is positioned to meet its targets. Chief executive Irene Rosenefeld said she anticipates Mondelez will see sales come in at the lower end of its target range in 2013, with growth accelerating down the line.

"Although our top-line growth was disappointing in the back half last year, the quality of underlying revenue and earnings growth provides strong momentum as we enter 2013."

Rosenfeld suggested Mondelez's strong footprint in emerging markets and its "enviable portfolio" of "iconic" snack brands are the keys to its long-term growth. With more than 40% of sales in emerging markets, Mondelez emphasised it expects sales to lift as demographic drivers and increased uptake of Western-style snacking habits fuel expansion.

Mondelez said it is working to address capacity issues that resulted in a "bottle neck" that hit sales in emerging markets last year.

CFO Dave Brearton said Mondelez Is "stepping up capital investments to support growth". In 2013, the group plans to raise capex to 4-5% of sales, up from its current level of "under 4%". Over "the next few years", Mondelez will increase capital expenditure further still, to "over 5%" of sales.

"The bulk of this increase is to expand capacity to support the explosive growth of our business in emerging markets," Brearton revealed.

In the next two years, Mondelez expects to generate cashflow of US$4bn, about $1bn of which will be "available for deployment" above and beyond the increased level of capex, he added.

"Our priorities... are consistent with what you would expect from a growth company. Our first priority will be to reinvest in the business to drive top-tier growth. Second, we will explore opportunities for tack-on acquisitions, in particular we'll look for opportinuties in developing markets where we can gain additional scale in our categories or increase our distribution capabilities. Third, we will look to retrn capital to shareholders in the form of dividends and/or share buybacks and finally we will paydown debt to retail financial flexibility."

While Mondelez intends to drive top-line growth in emerging markets, the group is also focused on delivering bottom-line gains by improving margins in the developed markets of North America and Europe, management revealed.

"We are quite aware that particularly in North America and Europe our margin structure is below some of our peers," Brearton conceded. Mondelez is introducing "aggressive measures to address that", he added.

The firm has previously announced it is investing in the region of $1bn in a restructuring programme that is expected to deliver SG&A and production efficiencies.