Kraft Stock: An Earnings Preview

Kraft Foods Group (NASDAQ: KRFT  ) is set to report earnings after the market closes on Wednesday. Here's what you need to watch for in the company's results.

Earnings expectations
The first issue that needs to be addressed is whether the packaged food and beverage giant met Wall Street's expectations. Analysts peg profits for Kraft at $0.69 per share this quarter. Kraft booked EPS of $1.38 in the second quarter, which included a $0.62 bump from market-based impacts to its pension plans. The maker of Velveeta, Oscar Mayer, Maxwell House, and Jell-O brands also raised its full-year EPS guidance to $3.40, versus its previous $2.75.

Organic growth
During the second quarter, Kraft's revenues declined 1.2% on anemic sales of cold cuts, salad dressings, and Jell-O. The Illinois-based company also attributed the drop in sales to lowered beverage prices as a result of stepped-up promotions. Kraft reported approximately $4.7 billion in second-quarter 2013 sales and $18 billion for the full year 2012. The company expects its 2013 revenue to grow at the same rate or slightly lower than the overall North American food and beverage market.

It's been more than a year since Kraft Foods Group was formed in the breakup of Kraft Foods. At that time, Kraft Foods Group was spun off from the parent company, which changed its name to Mondelez International (NASDAQ: MDLZ  ) . Mondelez retained the higher-growth global snack portfolio, including the Oreo, Nabisco, and Cadbury brands, while Kraft received the more sluggish North American grocery business. Yet since the October 2012 corporate breakup, there's been nothing lethargic about the performance of Kraft's stock. It's returned more than 29% to shareholders, outperforming Mondelez's 22% and the overall stock market. 

Profitability metrics
Kraft's management is prioritizing profitability over revenue growth, a decision made at some point by most mature consumer goods companies. As a result, Kraft is focusing on operating a leaner, more cost-efficient organization, concentrating on metrics like free cash flow and return on invested capital. After cutting jobs and other expenses, the company possesses a leaner cost structure. So far, Kraft's profitability-boosting efforts appear to be paying off. During last quarter's earnings release, the company increased its expectation for full-year free cash flow to $1.2 billion, up from $1 billion. 

Foolish takeaway
When Kraft releases its quarterly results on Wednesday, I'll be watching to see if and how the company achieved sales growth in its food and beverage businesses and whether the company is on pace to meet its full-year revenue estimate. I'll also be looking for improvements to profitability as well as indications as to how Kraft intends to expand these metrics going forward.

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