Chewing on Mondelez International's Latest Quarterly Report

Snack food purveyor Mondelez International stumbled in its last quarterly report. Will this quarter's showing translate into future struggles for Mondelez?

Feb 26, 2014 at 9:00PM

When partaking of Oreo cookies, snackers have three main ways of consumption: simple biting, unscrewing the "lid" and licking the creme, or dunking the Oreo in milk. In the same way, investors now face a choice to buy, sell, or hold shares of Mondelez International (NASDAQ:MDLZ). This choice comes from the purveyor of famous food brands like Oreo and Trident gum recently reporting downbeat quarterly results.

Should investors be concerned about Mondelez's earnings miss, or is this a good opportunity to consider purchasing shares? Due to macroeconomic headwinds and slowing growth, I believe that prospective Mondelez investors might want to hold off for now. Current shareholders should hold on to their shares, however, as the company has a solid portfolio of food products consumers loyally buy.

Factors weighing on Mondelez's success
In the last quarter, Mondelez had a troubling weak spot in cookie sales in China despite strong sales of gum in the country. China is a crucial international market to succeed in, and Mondelez's double-digit stumblings there should be cause for concern.

The company will also have to face two factors which can be a drag on future earnings: increasing prices of Mondelez's products and the coffee market. Mondelez is planning on raising the prices of its goods, a move that may push some consumers and retailers to consider less expensive options. Management also forsees profits being further dragged by lower coffee prices in the future, despite a recent uptick in coffee prices.

Mondelez's areas of strength
While Mondelez does have some challenges ahead, there are some positives that investors should consider as well. Mondelez is a large corporation with a handsome slate of well-known food brands. The company logs about $36 billion in annual income and has a presence in 80 countries around the world. The company was spun off of Kraft Foods (NASDAQ:KRFT) in 2012 and has performed relatively well since then.

Speaking of Kraft, there was a big positive in the last quarter for Mondelez. Mondelez benefited greatly from the resolution of arbitration over Kraft's grocery coffee sales battle with Starbucks. Although this is a one-time event helping Mondelez this quarter, the settlement of the spat between Kraft and Starbucks will help out future growth efforts for all three companies.

How should investors respond?
With this information in mind, how should long-term investors respond to the recent quarter? Starbucks is a strong international brand with a growing customer base and good prospects. Investors need to keep an eye on coffee prices and any potential competitors like Dunkin Donuts, but for now Starbucks stock still looks quite attractive due to Starbucks' wide economic moat and consumer loyalty.

Investors need to keep in mind that back when Kraft and Mondelez split, Mondelez was intended to be the high-growth powerhouse business while Kraft was intended to be a consistent "slow-but-steady" high-margins business. In the last quarter, Kraft's profit soared due largely to a retiree compensation plan accounting benefit. Not figuring in the accounting benefit, Kraft saw an increase from $90 million (15 cents per share) a year earlier to $149 million (about 25 cents per share). Now that Kraft's Starbucks spat and retiree plans have been resolved, I am cautiously optimistic about Kraft's future prospects despite depressed food prices.  

Higher growth is vitally important to Mondelez's results as shareholders tend to expect bigger gains with the company's larger risk as opposed to the conservative, more dependable Kraft. Mondelez's shareholders need to keep an eye on macroeconomic headwinds. Considering that Mondelez only missed analyst expectations by a fairly small $0.02 per share and the company has a strong portfolio of brands, I wouldn't be overly concerned about Mondelez's growth prospects yet. In a few months, it may be time to consider "biting in" to Mondelez stock.

Can Mondelez produce sustainable long-term growth?
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Evan Buck has no position in any stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool recommends Starbucks. The Motley Fool owns shares of Starbucks. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.

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