Psst, retailer. There's a clam in my soup! Campbell Soup
It's not just a matter of folks spitting out some funky fungi or the culinary faux pas of diluting ready-to-eat soup with water. For folks allergic to shellfish, spooning the stuff can lead to potentially dangerous side effects.
But what about the folks suddenly allergic to soup stocks? Trading at an eight-year low, soup might make for a yummy fall meal, but it hasn't made for much of an investment. This was supposed to be an all-weather defensive stock, but it's been raining broth and consommé lately. We consider ourselves fortunate: We cashed out on the company earlier this year in our Drip Portfolio.
Analysts expect the company to earn $1.47 a share this fiscal year, but that's its worst bottom-line showing in four years. The top line has been as moribund as the perennial soup-bound fly, too. Over the last five years, annual revenue has been stuck between $6.4 billion and $6.7 billion. Despite new flavors and the introduction of higher-priced bottled soup over the traditional canned products, Campbell is in a rut. Sure, the ready-to-serve market inched 9% higher in fiscal 2002, but most of those gains came at the expense of Campbell's own condensed soup market.
When a turnaround starts taking on the characteristics of still photography, you have every reason to worry. The upside is that we're now entering into Campbell's hearty and meaty season. This is a seasonal business, with the October and January fiscal quarters serving up the strongest results as consumers crave warm soup with nippy weather. But for shareholders, it's already downright freezing in these equity waters.