Inside Diamond Foods' Shame: Key Takeaways from the Recent Earnings Miss

Diamond Foods (NASDAQ: DMND  ) has endured a lot over the past two years. Of course, the same can be said for the snack-food maker's shareholders. The stock hit a low of $12.85  last November, following an accounting scandal involving improper payments to walnut growers. Diamond Foods' CEO and CFO were both ousted as a result, though the damage didn't end there . Between late 2011 and the start of this year the stock lost more than 80% of its value -- devastating Diamond Foods shareholders in its wake.

Now the company is promising a brighter future. But, can investors really trust Diamond Foods again after the mess it's made? Let's dig a little deeper and see what the company's first-quarter earnings tell us about the health of the business .

A rough start to fiscal 2014
Diamond reported quarterly earnings for its first quarter of fiscal 2014 last week. Unfortunately, the results highlighted some serious underlying problems for the snacks giant. Diamond reported a larger-than-expected loss of $42.2 million for the quarter , or $1.92 a share. That's more than three times last year's loss of $10.7 million, or $0.49 a share .

Charges related to a lawsuit stemming from the accounting scandal in early 2012 were part of the problem. In fact, in August Diamond Foods agreed to pay $96 million to the SEC to settle the suit . However, aside from these costs, the quarterly results also reflect a troubling sales trend in its nuts business. For the period ended Oct. 31, Diamond suffered a 17.1% decline in nut sales, while overall snack sales for the company inched up just 1.2% in the quarter .

Additionally, Diamond's revenue fell 9.2% to $234.7 million in its first quarter of fiscal 2014 . These results look even worse compared to rival snack giant PepsiCo's (NYSE: PEP  ) recent earnings. Pepsi reported third-quarter fiscal 2013 results in October that beat analysts' estimates thanks to strong sales from its snack-foods business .

Net revenue at Pepsi's Americas Foods climbed 5% in the period fueled by mid-single-digit revenue growth at Frito-Lay North America . Results for Pepsi's Frito-Lay Latin America Foods business were even better, with organic revenue growing 14% in the quarter . Let's not forget that Diamond Foods was set to become the second-largest snack maker in the world after PepsiCo if the $1.5 billion deal to purchase the Pringles brand from Procter & Gamble had gone through. Unfortunately, Diamond lost the deal to Kellogg after the SEC opened an investigation into its accounting issues .

Diamond's management sees its earnings improving in the quarters to come, although I wouldn't be too sure. If its recent quarterly results are any indication, it could take years for Diamond Foods to turn things around -- particularly as it attempts to rebuild its relationship with walnut growers. At this point, I think there are safer bets to be made in the snack food industry.

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