Yep, that's right. Whether you prefer cats to dogs or vice versa, Del Monte has you covered. Good thing, too, because the company's decision to enter the pet-food business has really paid off in terms of top-line growth. Del Monte credited its portfolio of recently acquired Meow Mix and Milk-Bone with driving a 15% gain in sales growth, translating to $907.2 million in revenues. Income from continuing operations, however, remained flat at just over $45 million, or $0.22 per diluted share.
The company's consumer-products business isn't faring too well right now. Net sales for this segment saw a 2% decrease, while operating income dived 12%. That's one heck of a disparity when compared to pet-food operations, which saw its sales and operating income soar 57% and 70%, respectively. Consumer products were hit by higher seafood costs, which hurt the company's StarKist products, and a challenging environment caused by limited fruit supply also impacted volume trends.
Del Monte is currently in the throes of a streamlining process and, thus, is incurring transformation charges. Assuming these operational changes bear fruit in the future, the dragging effect of the consumer brands could be turned around. That, hopefully, is management's top priority. Right now, as I've made amply clear, the company has literally gone to the dogs; the purchase of the Milk-Bone asset from Kraft
Taking a look at the latest 10-K, it appears that net cash from operations hasn't really done much in terms of growth the last few fiscal years. Instead of improving or staying constant, the past three quarters are showing the opposite, with operational cash flow declining significantly to roughly $20 million, versus $87 million in the comparable timeframe. We'll have to see whether management is on the ball with its strategies, because Del Monte certainly believes that its acquisition schedule is worth the long-term debt it has taken on.
The stock is currently trading not too far from a 52-week high, although the 52-week range is pretty tight, so that might not be indicative of anything. What might be more important is that Del Monte's shares currently yield a not-so-fresh 1.4% based on its current quarterly payment. Reading through the company's dividend policy as expressed in the 10-K, you'll see that it's fairly restrictive under its credit facility and indentures agreement. In this particular case, the disclaimer that dividends might not be declared in the future should be taken seriously -- the company only recently dipped its toes in the dividend waters, so it doesn't have any real history to speak of.
With the flat earnings growth, drop in cash flow, low yield, as well as a previous dud quarter, I really don't see any need to buy this stock. The phrase "there are better alternatives out there" certainly rings true in Del Monte's case. That being said, I think Del Monte might be worth revisiting in future quarters so investors can assess how the streamlining is proceeding and evaluate the growth of the pet brands. Hey, dogs do love those Milk Bones.
Further Foolish perspective on Del Monte:
- Del Monte Dishes Duds: Fool by Numbers
- Del Monte Has Direction
- Dogs Demand Del Monte
- Del Monte Trades Soup for Cat Food
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Fool contributor Steven Mallas owns none of the companies mentioned. As of this writing, he was ranked 15,753 out of 23,644 investors in the Motley Fool CAPS system -- talk about being in the doghouse. Don't know what CAPS is? Check it out. The Fool has a disclosure policy.