Global snacks giant Mondelez International has affirmed confidence in its ability to increase sales by at least 5% on an organic basis in 2012 amid concerns on Wall Street.
Better management of input costs and higher sales in emerging markets helped Mondelez report higher underlying profits in 2012.
On an organic basis, the Cadbury owner’s net sales grew 4.4% last year, lower than its long-term target.
Mondelez pointed to falling coffee prices in the second half of the year and problems in Brazil and Russia it endured in the third quarter.
The firm said, however, it was “confident” it can deliver on its 5%-plus growth target.
However, JP Morgan analyst Ken Goldman said the firm’s organic sales growth had fallen short of analyst expectations for two consecutive quarters, “These are the only two quarters you’ve had,” he said on the firm’s earnings call, alluding to its recent creation after Kraft Foods split in two.
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Goldman added: “The stock has been invested in, for many investors, because of that top-line potential. So just saying: ‘We are quite confident that we can deliver on our 5% plus next year’ I hope you can understand that may not be enough for some people. I know you’ve provided some, but any specifics you can provide besides just saying, “We’ve done it before” that can help people gain confidence that you will get back to that number. Because right now, there’s a lack of confidence that you guys will get to that 5% number, right or wrong.”
Mondelez chairman and CEO Irene Rosenfeld said 2012 had been “a transformational year” for the company.
“We split a $54bn enterprise. We created significant shareholder value in that process, while still delivering solid full-year results. And very high quality full-year results,” she said.
“The top line rebounded in the fourth quarter as we said it would. The revenue growth was very much in line with the guidance, the mid single-digit guidance that we gave you. We delivered high-quality results in each of our regions. We’ve got very strong underlying performance of our power brands, very strong continued expansion of gross margins and operating margins. We’ve continued to make the necessary investments in our franchises, both in A&C as well as sales and distribution. And we delivered very solid income growth on a constant-currency operating basis.”
She added: “It’s not quite up to the long term targets. We understand that. But we have all the makings underneath. A very solid franchise, and the opportunity to deliver, as we said we would, on our 2013 guidance.”
CFO David Brearton suggested Mondelez would grow in line with some of the “high-growth” categories in which it operated.
“The categories we’re participating in are growing at that 5-7% range. So we do have some stuff we have to get out of the way in the short term, but I think directionally, it is essentially saying we’ll grow in line with some pretty high-growth categories. And that will deliver the results that we put out there.”
Separately, Mondelez was asked about the impact of rising input costs on its chocolate business.
Brearton said there was “no individual commodity that is a significant portion of the cost” in chocolate.
“We tend to look at the total input cost bucket, which includes cocoa, obviously, and sugar, and various other ingredients. It also is impacted by currency rates, because cocoa is denominated in British pounds for us. Packaging, energy, labour costs, etc. The sort of amalgamation of all of those things we do not see a cost decline in any of our major businesses next year.
“We would probably say across the company we’d be in the low single-digit inflation across all of those components. And our strategy has been, and continues to be, we’ll price to recover those input costs. And we’ll leverage our aggressive productivity programs to grow our gross margin. So that’s kind of implicit in the whole cycle, and chocolate will be no different.”
Mondelez’s share price was down 3.28% at $26.84 at 12:06 ET.