Mondelez International said revenue dropped 8.1 per cent to $6.77bn in the fourth quarter, missing estimates mainly due to the strong dollar, while the maker of Oreos continued its battle to improve margins by cutting costs.
Analysts were expecting a 6.4 per cent decline in sales to $6.89bn in the fourth quarter, according to Bloomberg consensus estimates. Sales were also hit as they now do not include revenue from its Venezuelan business. Excluding this and the impact of the strong dollar, net revenue growth was 0.6 per cent, the company said.
Earnings more than doubled to 6 cents a share, after taking an extraordinary loss last year from deconsolidating its Venezuelan business. Adjusting for the impact of that loss and for currency, EPS rose 12 per cent to 47 cents per share.
Adjusted operating margins for the quarter increased 110 basis points to 14.4 per cent, thanks to reductions in overhead costs and other savings.
Mondelez, the world’s third-largest packaged food and confectionery company after Nestle and PepsiCo, has been slashing costs amid pressure to improve margins, as companies across the US food industry battle to show investors they can operate as efficiently as 3G’s Kraft Heinz.
As the two-year anniversary of the combination of Kraft and Heinz draws near, analysts are speculating whether cost-cutting 3G could strike again soon with another acquisition, with Mondelez a possible target.
“At present, stock performance may be supported by the possibility of a takeout by Kraft-Heinz,” said Alexia Howard, an analyst at Bernstein in a note before earnings were released. “Mondelez seems to be top of the list of potential targets for Kraft-Heinz among investors, which could provide near-term support, although this could be a risk if the company turns out not to be the chosen company.
Irene Rosenfeld, chairman and chief executive of Mondelez, said she was “not going to speculate about things that aren’t real. I’m focused on strategy, a balanced approach of growing our top and bottom lines. I feel good about our portfolio, and will continue to look for tuck-in acquisitions”.
Mondelez became a target for Mr Trump during his election campaign, as the company was in the middle of executing a long-standing plan to upgrade a Mexican plant that makes Oreos. This resulted in the loss of 600 jobs in Chicago, although the US continues to make the popular cookies for the home market.
Ms Rosenfeld said that she had not had contact with the new administration since it took power.
Asked whether the Trump administration’s protectionist rhetoric on trade was a concern for Mondelez in light of its extensive overseas operations, Ms Rosenfeld said: “Given the environment is moving quite quickly we’re waiting and seeing. We operate in 165 countries around the world so it is imperative to us that we able to do business freely and prosper.”
She added that the company was investing significant sums in the US but that “investments overseas are important to us”.