Campbell Soup (NYSE: CPB ) is getting serious about saving money. The world's largest soup maker will wind up its Russian business and cut nearly 800 jobs across the organization in an attempt to reduce costs.
The moves, which will cost about $75 million to be recorded in the forthcoming quarter, are expected to result in an annual pre-tax savings of $60 million in fiscal 2012 and $70 million in fiscal 2014.
After deciding to shut down a business that fell short of Campbell's expectations, the company is taking steps to work on its weak areas now.
Cutting costs in any way looks wise, especially at a time when economic factors like higher input costs are bogging down everyone, including rivals like ConAgra Foods (NYSE: CAG ) and General Mills (NYSE: GIS ) .
Campbell is balancing its cost-cutting initiatives with efficiency improvements and growth plans. Apart from the Russian exit, the company has unveiled plans to automate its Australian plant for a capital expenditure of $40 million, and improve asset utilization by shutting down one facility in Michigan and shifting production. These moves will help Campbell fund growth plans and improve supply chain efficiencies.
The company's focus will now shift to other emerging markets like China, and on revving up sales in the U.S. Early this year, Campbell announced a joint venture with Swire Pacific to expand in China. The move looks prudent, as other consumer goods companies like H.J. Heinz (NYSE: HNZ ) are expecting more growth in emerging markets.
Thankfully, Campbell's falling U.S. soup sales haven't taken a major toll on its total revenues, having been offset by rising baking and snacking sales. The top line for the 12 months ending May 1 this year fell by a marginal 0.7%, while net margin remained almost flat at around 10.7%.
Campbell is a highly leveraged company that sports a debt-to-equity ratio of 290%, partly owing to a massive repurchase program the company has followed up on. However, the situation looks manageable due to consistent operating cash flow. An interest coverage ratio of 10.8 adds to the comfort.
The Foolish bottom line
Clearly, the soup maker is in for a revamp, thanks to CEO-in-waiting Denise Morrison's aggressive plans. Foolish investors may well keep an eye on the stock.