Tyson Foods Slices EPS Estimate, Investors Carve Out Cash

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After trading down around 4% in Wednesday’s premarket, Tyson Foods Inc. (NYSE: TSN) opened down around 2% following the company’s downward revision to its adjusted full-year earnings per share (EPS) estimate.

Just a month ago when Tyson reported fiscal third-quarter results, the company maintained its prior guidance for 2019 EPS of $5.75 to $6.10. In a press release late Tuesday, the company slashed its estimate to a new range of $5.30 to $5.70, a drop of 7.8% at the low end and 6.6% at the high end.

The food processor said it is facing “short-term challenges” that are having a negative impact on fourth-quarter earnings. The negative factors include a reversal of a gain on mark-to-market grain on derivatives that the company recognized in the third fiscal quarter; commodity volatility, new food safety initiatives; a fire at a beef processing plant; and lagging improvements in the company’s chicken segment.

CEO Noel White said:

The discrete challenges we’ve encountered this quarter now lead us to believe we will fall short of our previously stated guidance but our outlook for fiscal 2020 remains positive as we believe some of the challenges we’re experiencing are not expected to repeat, and we’re expecting more favorable market conditions as well.

When Tyson reported third-quarter results on August 5, the company noted increased sales volume in its chicken segment but lower average sales prices attributed to the company’s sales mix. Operating income was down for the year to date due to higher operating costs and market conditions partially offset by lower feed costs and hedging gains in the third quarter.

The fire at Tyson’s Holcomb, Kansas, beef slaughterhouse is likely to have had some impact on meat processing, but the company’s chicken segment appears to be the real problem. In the first three quarters of the fiscal year, adjusted operating margin in the chicken segment totaled 5.7% and Tyson projected a full-year margin of around 6%. Just looking at the challenges the company enumerated in its Tuesday press release, the chicken segment’s adjusted operating margin looks to be headed down in the fourth quarter, not up.

If there’s good news for investors here, it’s that Tyson’s prepared foods segment looks like it will be able to pick up much of the decline in margins at the chicken, beef and pork segments. Even so, for the first three quarters of 2019, adjusted operating margin for the company dipped from 8.1% in 2018 to 7.3%.

After less than an hour of trading Wednesday, Tyson’s stock had dropped by more than 5% to $88.26, in a 52-week range of $49.77 to $94.07. The stock’s 12-month price target is $91.00.

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