Ahh, spring. Time to oil up the old oven mitt, shove a ball inside, and stick it under the mattress every night. At least, that's what spring meant back when I was shorter, threw better, and had hair. Spring also meant trips to the corner store for dozens of packs of Topps
The venerable confectionery and trading-card maker reported fourth-quarter and full-year results this morning. Let's rip open the pack, throw away that lip-lacerating chunk of cardboard -- I mean, gum -- and see what we've got.
Unfortunately, today's sheets repeat last quarter's woes. For the fourth quarter, sales inched up to $69.8 million, an increase of only 1.5% if you back out foreign exchange benefits. Earnings reached $0.07 per share, but with $0.04 per stub owed to a tax-rate change, the remaining $0.03 falls below the nickel per share in the prior-year period.
Sales for the full year were $297.3 million. If you consider that $9.7 million of that total was due only to the dollar's slide, revenues actually fell almost a percent below last year's levels, making this the third year in a row of decline. Earnings came in at $0.31 for the year, a 23% drop from last year.
What's the problem here? It's as simple as flat sales and increasing operating costs. Candy sales -- about half its bread and butter -- are faring the worst, which seems odd considering Americans' eating habits.
But it's not all bad news. Its new WizKids collectible game division, which was dragging the company down when we last checked in, turned in a smaller loss than expected. Topps recently revamped its underperforming line of etopps cards, allowing collectors to wager them in fantasy baseball games or swap them in online trades. Finally, it is looking to expand its presence in foreign markets.
Although management aims to return to "operating earnings growth" next year, investors ought to spend their quarters elsewhere. Priced at 31 times trailing earnings, and unable to sell candy to the world's hungriest consumers, Topps is too expensive for this kid.
Talk hardball on the Fool's Major League Baseball discussion board.
Given Topps' plan to tap European markets, Fool contributor Seth Jayson suggests that management stop mispronouncing foreign words like calcio. (It's "cal-cho," not "call-see-oh.") He has no stake in any companies mentioned above. View his Fool profile here .