The food processor and packager reported quarterly adjusted diluted earnings per share (EPS) of $0.60 on revenues of $4.59 billion. In the same period a year ago, ConAgra reported EPS of $0.51 on revenue of $3.43 billion. Fourth-quarter results also compare to the Thomson Reuters consensus estimates for EPS of $0.59 and $4.6 billion in revenue.
For the full year, ConAgra reported adjusted EPS of $2.16 on annual sales of $15.49 billion. The consensus estimates called for EPS of $2.15 on revenues of $15.6 billion. The acquisition of Ralcorp added nearly $1 billion in sales for the fourth quarter and $108 million in operating profit.
ConAgra forecast fiscal year 2014 EPS of $2.40, which includes a benefit of $0.25 related to the acquisition of Ralcorp. The consensus estimate called for 2014 EPS of $2.48. The company also said that first quarter EPS would be in-line with the first quarter of fiscal 2013 earnings of $0.44 a share. That is well below the consensus estimate of $0.52 a share.
The company’s CEO said:
[W]e provided our current view of our strong near-term and long-term EPS growth potential, taking into account an increase in expected synergies from the recent Ralcorp transaction, as well as the benefit of our ongoing innovation, marketing, and margin management initiatives. … After the strong fiscal 2013 performance from the Commercial Foods segment, we will be dealing with some profit headwinds related to that segment in fiscal 2014, and we expect to manage through these and still post very good EPS growth for the fiscal year.
ConAgra understands that its forecast for the 2014 fiscal year is underwhelming, so the company offered a long-term outlook through 2017. Here’s the CEO again: “[W]e expect to grow comparable EPS by at least 10% per year from fiscal 2015-2017; this is expected to result in five consecutive years of double-digit EPS growth, and EPS in excess of $3.00 per share in fiscal 2017.” That may cheer up investors a little today, but don’t count on it.
Shares are inactive in premarket trading this morning, at $33.35 in a 52-week range $23.64 to $36.31. Thomson Reuters had a consensus analyst price target of around $36.70 before today’s results were announced.