Big-name cereal maker General Mills
Results seemed relatively hearty on the top line. Net sales increased 7% to $3.1 billion. Revenue was aided by a 5% expansion in unit volume growth. Diluted earnings per share weren't so stellar, however, rising only 2% to $0.62.
The measly bottom-line growth did include restructuring and impairment charges partially related to joint ventures. The company's involvement with Cereal Partners Worldwide certainly bore fruit in the quarter; after-tax earnings rose 25% to $15 million.
The statistics sprinkled throughout the earnings release define a typical, mature consumer brand. Growth isn't spectacular -- down in places, even -- but it seems to be enough to keep an acceptable amount of cash flowing into the company's coffers. International sales are doing quite well -- they rose 16%, and although they were obviously helped by the weak dollar, they were supported by an 8% increase in unit volume growth.
Since I just mentioned cash, let's check out the cash-flow statement for the year. Operating cash flow came in at $1.8 billion, a very slight dip compared to 2006. That represented plenty of money to fund both capital requirements and dividend payments.
Last time around, I was a bit critical of General Mills' dividend history, so I've got to give the company its due now. Dividends per stub in 2005, 2006, and 2007 were $1.24, $1.34, and $1.44, respectively. That isn't mind-blowing growth by any means, but the company is nevertheless consistently upping its payouts. Plus, as Rick Munarriz observed last year, the company has demonstrated a recent penchant for hiking its dividend more than once during a 12-month period. Right now, the quarterly rate stands at $0.39 per share.
As Rich Smith mentioned in his Foolish Forecast piece, General Mills plays in a field crowded with top competitors such as Kraft
General Mills is keeping up, and although it doesn't expect earnings appreciation to rise like a tech stock next year (it's forecast to move up between 7% and 8%), it is trading at a decent yield. With the recent rise in its dividend payment, I'm inclined to find the company a whole lot more delicious.
Have a Foolish breakfast:
- Foolish Forecast: General Mills Still in Charge
- General Mills' International Meal: Fool by Numbers
- Fool on the Street: General Mills Is Cooking
Kraft and Unilever are selections of the Motley Fool Income Investor service. Dividend expert James Early loves to find market-beating stocks with tasty yields. Sign up for a free, no-risk trial to check out his winning portfolio.
Fool contributor Steven Mallas owns none of the companies mentioned. As of this writing, he was ranked 10,232 out of 31,278 investors in the CAPS system. Don't know what CAPS is? Check it out. The Fool has a disclosure policy.