This Wednesday, Green Mountain Coffee Roasters (UNKNOWN:GMCR.DL) will announce its fourth-quarter and full fiscal-year results. The market has recently pulled back on Green Mountain, after running the stock up through the end of August. Since then, it's fallen back 25% as investors began to worry about the company being overpriced. On Wednesday, the company will have a chance to reassure the market, and give an update on where it's going. Here's what to watch for in the release.
K-Cup sales movement
The core of Green Mountain's brand comes from its sales of K-Cups. In the third quarter, single-serve packs made up 78% of the company's total revenue, bringing in $752 million. That was an 18% increase over sales from the same period in 2012, driven by a 21% jump in volume sales. The company has said that it expects that growth to improve again in the fourth quarter.
Not everyone is optimistic, though, and some big names have reiterated a short position based on K-Cup sales falling. David Einhorn has reiterated and expanded his short position over the past year, and called out Green Mountain in his most recent letter to investors. He highlighted the discrepancy in K-Cup sales between the number that the company has reported and the number that has been estimated by point-of-sale tracking services. As K-Cups are the main driver of the business, this will be the biggest thing to watch for in the earnings release.
Adoption of the Bolt
Recently, Green Mountain has tried to expand its reach by tapping into the office coffee brewer market. The company's offering is called the Bolt, and it brews larger pots of coffee for large to medium-size businesses. The company estimated that it had a mere 10% of the workplace market, the whole of which was valued at $2 billion. The Bolt was meant to tap into that market and act as a ladder to other non-household markets, as well.
In this week's release, investors should look for more information about pre-sales and the launch of the Bolt, which is supposed to hit the market in late fall.
Challenges for Green Mountain
The biggest problem facing Green Mountain is its nonexclusive brewing cups. The company's patent on K-Cups expired last year, leading the company to launch the Vue, a newly patented brewer and cup type. That hasn't done well, as Einhorn is quick to point out. The problem is that customers have no desire to get on board with a locked-down product when there's an open one available.
It's the same challenge that Starbucks (NASDAQ:SBUX) faced when it launched the Verismo brewer. While the machine could make a latte and steam milk -- from milk cups -- it wasn't compatible across the board. As a result, the Verismo has suffered, as evidenced by Starbucks expanding its agreement with Green Mountain.
To get a full view of the potential problems, you might read Einhorn's entire tirade on Green Mountain. He basically calls the management team liars, and says that the numbers that it has released don't add up using any sort of math. That's a real worry, considering the problems with accounting that Green Mountain has had in the past.
If this is going to be a truly excellent earnings release, I'd like to see some of Einhorn's concerns taken head-on. His position has already hurt the stock, and the company can't just ignore his claims if it wants the market to trust it. Having said that, Green Mountain is still the dominant brand in the single-serving brew market, and I think the Bolt brew is an excellent opportunity for growth. If everything is on the up-and-up, Green Mountain should have no trouble continuing its growth.