Why Dean Foods Co Shares Dropped

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What: Shares of Dean Foods Co (NYSE: DF  ) were getting frozen out by investors today, falling as much as 10% after an underwhelming third-quarter earnings report.

So what: The food distributor said that adjusted earnings, which ignored the $415.8 million gain it made on the sale of its former WhiteWave subsidiary, came in at $0.12, a penny below estimates. Sales in the quarter of $2.2 billion, meanwhile, were essentially in line with estimates at $2.19 billion. Dean, which is primarily a dairy supplier, said that its share of fluid milk sales declined to 34.9% in the quarter from 36.4% a year ago, and industry volumes fell 1.7%. Dean also announced it would begin paying a $0.07 quarterly dividend, good enough for a 1.5% yield, bump up its share buyback authorization to $300 million, and made a tender offer to buy back $400 million of debt.

Now what: While those last announcements seem to confirm management's focus on returning value to shareholders, the company's outlook was not so hot. Dean now sees a full-year EPS of $0.85 to $0.91, well below analyst estimates of $0.98. At the high range of that projection, the company would have a P/E of 20, a lofty valuation for a business operating in the flat dairy processing industry, and analysts actually see sales falling 1.6% this year. Declining sales and a high price tag seem like more than enough reason to stay away.

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