Shares of Diamond Foods
How it got here
If you look up the meaning of "gaffe" in the dictionary, chances are there will be a picture of the Diamond Foods logo right next to it. The reason Diamond Foods is at a new low is very simply one PR disaster after another.
In February, an internal accounting audit determined that then-CEO Michael Mendes and CFO Steven Neil had improperly foregone payments to its walnut growers in order to artificially inflate Diamond's profits. The result of the audit landed Mendes and Neil on administrative leave and forced the company to admit that it would need to restate its 2010 and 2011 results. Although the company is still working on restating its results, it's quite possible EPS could be affected to the downside by as much as 50%.
To top this off, Diamond Foods had struck a deal with Procter & Gamble
One final point: Three weeks ago Diamond Foods also suspended its dividend payment as part of an agreement with its lenders.
How it stacks up
Let's see how Diamond Foods stacks up next to its peers.
It's actually amazing considering all of the issues Diamond shareholders have been through that this company is outperforming solid names like Kraft
|Procter & Gamble||2.9||14.6||15.1||3.2%|
Source: Morningstar. *Dividend currently suspended.
This is one book you definitely don't want to judge by its cover. Considering that Diamond's earnings restatement could halve its profits, the company is trading more or less in line with its peers. The key knock against Diamond is that it's suspended its dividend whereas stable household snack food names like Kraft and Kellogg are doling out 3.1% and 3.2% yields, respectively.
Now for the real question: What's next for Diamond Foods? Personally, I'd say its very own made-for-TV comedy act, but the honest answer depends on whether or not Diamond can re-establish a working relationship with its growers and re-instill confidence with its investors.
Our very own CAPS community gives the company a two-star rating (out of five), with a surprising 84% of members expecting it to outperform. Although I have not made a CAPScall either way on the company, I find it very difficult to believe that Diamond is anywhere near a turnaround. The company has taken to shopping itself around to private-equity firms in order to shore up its balance sheet (albeit just minority stakes -- Diamond isn't looking to sell itself outright), and recently suspended its dividend. These are not the signs of a healthy company. Tack on its damaged business relationships with growers and a never-ending PR nightmare, and I'd say you have a very good case for the stock to continue to underperform.
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Fool contributor Sean Williams has no material interest in any companies mentioned in this article. You can follow him on CAPS under the screen name TMFUltraLong, track every pick he makes under the screen name TrackUltraLong, and check him out on Twitter, where he goes by the handle @TMFUltraLong.
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