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What: Mr. Market took a bite out of shares of snack-food company Snyder's-Lance
So what: For the fourth quarter, Snyder's-Lance saw total revenue jump 23% from the prior year. Of course, that gain was driven entirely by an extra week in the quarter as compared to last year and Lance's merger with Snyder's of Hanover. Excluding both of those items, year-over-year revenue fell 3%. Adjusted earnings per share for the quarter -- which exclude merger costs, an insurance settlement, and the quarter's extra week -- clocked in at $0.23, below Wall Street's estimate of $0.35. To paraphrase investors: "Boooo!"
Now what: Management was disappointed with the fourth-quarter performance, and I find it a bit refreshing to hear a management team not totally gloss over a lousy quarter. Looking ahead, the focus will be on just how much the company can gain from the recent merger. Management is looking for a 2.5% to 3% bump in operating margins versus the pro forma 2010 level of 6%. That would be pretty darn impressive if they can get there. At the same time, the company is expecting 5% annual growth through 2011.
I tend to be skeptical of merger synergies, particularly when talking about a company that's looking for some sort of turnaround from a deal. While Lance has been able to grow its revenue over the years, most of that growth has been gobbled up on the way to the bottom line by declining margins. While the company could very well deliver on management's high hopes, to be safe, investors may want to set their expectations a bit lower.
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Fool contributor Matt Koppenheffer does not own shares of any of the companies mentioned. You can check out what Matt is keeping an eye on by visiting his CAPS portfolio, or you can follow Matt on Twitter @KoppTheFool or on his RSS feed. The Fool's disclosure policy prefers dividends over a sharp stick in the eye.