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Why United Natural Foods Sank 17% Today

By Howard Smith - Dec 9, 2020 at 11:29AM

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The company reported sales growth, but also higher expenses that surprised investors.

What happened

Shares of United Natural Foods ( UNFI 1.04% ) are sinking today. They were down 17% as of 11 a.m. EST. 

The food wholesaler reported its fiscal first-quarter 2021 earnings this morning that didn't meet analyst expectations on the top or bottom lines. 

So what

United Natural Foods said it lost $0.02 per share including pre-tax charges and costs, and missed analyst estimates with adjusted earnings per share (EPS) of $0.51 after removing restructuring, acquisition, and integration related expenses. Analysts expected comparable earnings of $0.74 per share. 

basket of groceries on the floor in store aisle

Image source: Getty Images.

The company also slightly missed revenue estimates, even with what it called "strong customer demand." Grocers and other consumer staples businesses have been reporting strong sales throughout the pandemic. 

Now what

United Natural did report better profit margins compared to the prior-year period. But even in the strong business environment, the company adjusted fiscal 2021 estimates downward for net income and EPS, while increasing its capital expenditure plans. 

The additional $50 million in spending is related to an investment in a new distribution center "to service a major new customer" and to position the company for growth in the New York metropolitan area, it said. 

The drop in shares today reflects investors taking profits after the stock has soared since the start of the year. Strength in the grocery business helped shares more than double in 2020 prior to today's fall. After such a strong run, lowering the outlook for earnings convinced some investors to move on. 

This article represents the opinion of the writer, who may disagree with the “official” recommendation position of a Motley Fool premium advisory service. We’re motley! Questioning an investing thesis – even one of our own – helps us all think critically about investing and make decisions that help us become smarter, happier, and richer.

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