Corny pun alert: Looks like the soup's off at Campbell Soup
That certainly isn't "mm, mm good," is it? Gross margin was down as costs and expenses ate into profits; streamlining initiatives in Indonesia and Australia also had an impact. But before shareholders get too depressed about the quarterly bottom line, the good news is that sales grew 10%.
Some other good news can be found in the yearly results. Sales increased 7%, and adjusted earnings per stub from continuing operations increased 13% to $1.95.
Alas, full fiscal-year cash flows were not that hearty this time around. Last year, Campbell recorded more than $1.2 billion of operational cash flow. For 2007, the figure dropped to $674 million. Changes in working capital were cited here as a big reason for the decline, as well as payments related to hedging transactions.
Although the quarter was a weak one in terms of earnings, I wouldn't advise against looking into Campbell as an investment idea. However, there are a few caveats to keep in mind, so stay tuned.
From where I sit, Campbell seems to be doing well with its brand portfolio, as it's been slimming down products that don't seem to fit anymore. Recently, the company addressed the changing marketplace by announcing its intentions to sell its Godiva asset, and it has jumped on the 100-calorie-pack bandwagon with Kraft
Campbell Soup is a familiar brand that should always have a place on the supermarket shelf. Its story might be boring to some degree, but again, as a core holding, it might make up for its less-than-sexy appeal by applying a bit of an antidote against volatility via its dividend payments.
Now, about those caveats. The balance sheet showed some nice things in terms of long-term and total debt levels -- they're both down. Cash and cash equivalents, however, are pretty minuscule; there's $71 million of this metric compared with $2.7 billion in total debt. Taking this into account with the drop in cash flow might make an investor pause; that's fine, that's what further due diligence is all about. And digging further, you'll find cash was used to repurchase $200 million in shares. Campbell is easily covering its interest obligations with operating income; it's got a great portfolio which includes Campbell Soups and the Pepperidge Farm lineup; and I expect that earnings should grow steadily, if unexcitingly, over time. Fools should keep an eye on the cash management, however, as I counseled previously, and look for any attempt to get the stock on pullbacks and higher yields.
These Foolish broths are rich with investment flavor:
Kraft is a selection of the Motley Fool Income Investor service. Analyst James Early loves to find stocks with good yields. Oh, and he's beating the market, too. 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 No. 12,077 out of more than 60,000 investors in the Motley Fool CAPS system. Don't know what CAPS is? Check it out. The Fool has a disclosure policy.
More from The Motley Fool
Campbell Soup Wants You to Have a Side of Pretzels and Popcorn
Consumers' food preferences are changing, leaving companies like Campbell in a pinch.
Campbell Soup's Risky Bet on Salty Snacks
At first blush, the struggling conglomerate's purchase of Snyder's-Lance seems sensible. But the deal may not improve Campbell's fortunes.
2 Unloved Dividend Stocks for Savvy Investors to Buy
Everybody loves dividend stocks, and when you can get the companies at a discount while markets trade near record highs, it's even better.