ConAgra lowers earnings outlook
by Eric Schroeder
OMAHA — ConAgra Foods, Inc. has revised its fiscal 2014 diluted earnings-per-share expectations downward to a range of $2.34 to $2.38, adjusted for items impacting comparability. The company’s prior target was diluted EPS of approximately $2.40. Despite the downward revision, the new estimate still represents 8% to 10% growth over comparable fiscal 2013 EPS of $2.16.
“The revised outlook reflects lower-than-planned fiscal first-quarter EPS,” ConAgra said. “First-quarter EPS was 33 cents as reported, and 37 cents adjusted for items impacting comparability. While challenging industry conditions have weighed on overall results, the softer-than-planned first-quarter comparable EPS performance principally relates to the Consumer Foods segment, where difficult conditions for some branded retail categories and some customers have negatively impacted sales and profits. Unit volumes for that segment in the fiscal first quarter were below year-ago levels and below the company’s original plans.”
ConAgra said it is adjusting its merchandising, promotion, and pricing strategies for its retail brands to improve the Consumer Foods segment’s sales and profit performance as fiscal 2014 progresses. Additionally, the company has begun implementing “aggressive cost management initiatives.”
“The input cost environment for the remainder of fiscal 2014 has improved from earlier projections, which is also expected to improve the Consumer Foods segment’s financial performance in fiscal 2014,” the company said.
ConAgra’s near-term capital allocation goals, which include significant debt retirement in fiscal years 2014 and 2015, and its fiscal 2015-17 EPS growth plans, which include realizing significant synergies from the Ralcorp acquisition, remain intact and are not impacted by the revision to the fiscal 2014 EPS estimates.
The company will release full first-quarter results on Sept. 19.