Why United Natural Foods Shares Plunged

Although we don't believe in timing the market or panicking over market movements, we do like to keep an eye on big changes -- just in case they're material to our investing thesis.

What: Shares of natural foods distributor United Natural Foods (Nasdaq: UNFI  ) were looking a bit rotten to investors today, as they fell as much as 12% after the company reported fiscal fourth-quarter earnings.

So what: The results for the quarter were right in line with what was expected. The company's fourth-quarter earnings per share rose 19% to $0.51 and revenue was up 16% to $1.34 billion. Wall Street analysts had been expecting $0.51 in per-share profit on $1.32 billion in sales. The strong earnings growth was attributable to the top-line sales growth as well as "operational efficiencies."

Now what: The good news for United Natural didn't extend to management's expectations for the upcoming year. For fiscal 2013, the company sees EPS between $2.14 and $2.24. The average analyst estimate for the year had been $2.25. The lower-than-expected forecast may have been driven by striking workers in the company's Auburn, Wash., distribution center as well as issues the company has had with its new transportation management system.

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