It seems entirely appropriate that Sanderson Farms
So far this year, the chicken business hasn't been particularly good. My Foolish colleague Stephen Simpson described the situation up through the firm's first three quarters of this fiscal year back in August. To summarize: Business was bleak.
Through the first nine months of fiscal 2005, Sanderson has already reported a 4% decline in sales from the first nine months of fiscal 2004, resulting in a 30% decline in profits for the period. Although the costs of chicken feed have been on the decline, the prices that chicken meat fetches on the market have, by and large, been declining even faster. (Speaking of which, investors in Motley Fool Hidden Gems pick Buffalo Wild Wings
In the "how ironic" section of its press release, Sanderson cited "severe hot and dry weather conditions" as a problem it expected to face in fiscal Q4. As it turned out, Sanderson was more affected by flooding in Louisiana and Mississippi.
In a conference call on Sept. 15, Sanderson revealed that Hurricane Katrina did little permanent damage to its operations in those states, but it did kill 3 million chickens out of an inventory of about 37 million. Additionally, more than 5 million eggs failed to hatch as a result of power outages in the affected regions. Combined, these losses account for approximately two weeks' worth of processing volume at the company's Mississippi and Louisiana plants.
In this Fool's view, between Katrina-related costs and the difficulty of raising profits on a commodity whose market price is falling, Sanderson investors are being set up for a fall Tuesday.
True, consensus analyst estimates predict that Sanderson will report earning $0.48 per share for fiscal Q4 2005 -- nearly twice what it earned last year.
But if you look closely, that "consensus" is just the result of mixing three widely disparate views. Of the three analysts who track the stock, one expects to see $0.82 per share in profit, another, an $0.18 per share loss, and a third, somewhere in between. With no recent guidance from the company, but all of the facts pointing toward a rough quarter, my money would be on Sanderson missing this "consensus" estimate Tuesday.
For more Foolish writing on the company, read:
At one time, Sanderson Farms was a recommendation of Motley Fool Stock Advisor . It no longer is.
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Fool contributor Rich Smith does not own shares of either company named above.