Blame the voters – Whirlpool’s shares tumbled more than 10 per cent on Tuesday after it said that consumer jitters after the UK’s Brexit vote and ahead of the US presidential election had softened third-quarter demand in those markets for washers and other home appliances.
Shares of Whirlpool, which had been up about 1 per cent over the past year prior to today, hit an eight-month low on Tuesday after it unveiled earnings that were largely weaker than expected.
On Tuesday, Whirlpool reported net sales fell in the third quarter of 2016 to $5.25bn, from $5.28bn during the same three-month period last year and missing the $5.3bn predicted by analysts. The company said revenue was dragged down by a weaker post-Brexit pound and UK consumer demand, and a flurry of promotional activity in the US that it said allowed importing rivals to undercut its prices with cheaper goods.
Quarterly net income gained slightly from a year earlier, to $238m, or $3.10 per diluted share, up from $235m, or $2.95 a share, during the third quarter of 2015 and edging out analysts’ expectations for $3.02 a share. Whirlpool said its decision to not engage in aggressive discounting has allowed it to expand margins in North America and Latin America, gains that helped it offset currency headwinds created by a stronger dollar and declining demand in key emerging markets – Brazil, Russia and China. Adjusted to exclude certain one-time costs, including a restructuring charge, earnings per share were $3.66, up from the $3.45 reported during the third-quarter of 2015 but falling short of the $3.85 analysts had expected.
Whirlpool executives said they expected the weaker demand trend to be temporary, particularly in the US and UK as consumers on both sides of the Atlantic regain confidence in making big-ticket purchases after their respectively volatile campaign seasons. Still, the rebound likely won’t be immediate, Whirlpool said, leading it to lower the upper end of its full-year guidance to $11.50-$11.75, compared to the previous range of $11.50-$12.
Although it can’t beat back currency headwinds, the company is hoping to fight back where it can, including in the US price wars, where the “intensity” of rivals’ promotions, particularly for washers, put Whirlpool on the back foot in the third quarter. Rather than race to the bottom, Whirlpool expects to raise prices for some items effective January 1 and increase its investment in new products. Also, the company is expecting a ruling in January on a lawsuit it has filed with the US Department of Commerce and International Trade Commission accusing competitors Samsung and LG of illegally dumping washers in the US.
“You should expect more innovation from us, you should expect ongoing productivity from us, and again, as I said before, we believe in earning market share, not buying market share,” said chief executive Jeff Fettig.
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