Why Dole Food Shares Went Bad

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 Dole Food (UNKNOWN: DOLE.DL  ) missed out on the broad-market rally today, falling as much as 17% after updating guidance because of the sale of its worldwide packaged food and Asia fresh businesses for $1.685 billion in cash.

So what: Itochu, a Japanese company, is awaiting regulatory approval before it can complete the acquisition. Dole has been heavily indebted, with nearly $1.7 billion in borrowings on its books, and the sale, along with other contingent credit agreements, will go toward extinguishing that debt and giving the food supplier more financial flexibility in a variety of areas. Perhaps more importantly, new COO Michael Carter provided updated guidance, saying the company expects net income of $45 million to $60 million in 2013, below market expectations. Management also called the current banana market "challenging."

Now what: Today's fall probably has more to do with the scaled-back guidance rather than the news of the sale's completion, which shareholders had approved a month ago and included the departure of Dole's CEO, David DeLorenzo, for Itochu. In total, the sale should cost Dole at least a quarter of its revenue, which doesn't seem like a terrible deal for a price tag double its market cap. The packaged-food segment contributed about a third earnings, however, so the sale removes more than 40% of the company's net income. The new "right-sized" Dole should be a nimbler competitor with the debt off its books, but I see no compelling reason to invest, especially with the loss of the packaged-goods segment, which has higher margins and greater growth potential. You can find out what's next for Dole by adding the stock to your Watchlist here.

 

 


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