What: Shares of Cal-Maine Foods (CALM 0.59%) dropped as much as 11% Monday morning after the egg producer reported weaker-than-expected fiscal-fourth-quarter 2015 results. By 1:40 p.m., the stock had regained ground and was down just 2.8% from the previous close.
So what: Quarterly revenue rose 8.4% year over year to $403 million, which translated to 46.3% growth in net income to $46.1 million, or $0.95 per diluted share. That's all well and good, but analysts were anticipating higher earnings of $1.04 per share on revenue of $418 million.
Nonetheless, Cal-Maine CEO Dolph Baker insisted the quarter "marked a strong finish to another record year for Cal-Maine Foods." In particular, specialty eggs -- including cage free varieties -- were a strong contributor to growth.
Now what: At the same time, while average feed costs for the fiscal year fell 10.9% thanks to a record harvest of corn and soybean crops last fall, Baker also warned the company expects feed ingredient prices to be volatile in the year ahead. In addition, egg prices have climbed significantly in recent months thanks to outbreaks of avian flu in the upper midwest U.S. that have reduced the size of the national flock by 13%. Going forward, prices are expected to remain high until the flock is replenished.
It's obvious the market hates uncertainty despite the fact there have been no positive avian flu tests at Cal-Maine locations. But Cal-Maine has also incurred additional expenses to increase biosecurity measures at every location, and any participants in the national egg industry will inevitably be guilty by association and subject to the potential ire of uninformed consumers. Given the added risk of feed prices swinging in an unfavorable direction -- and with the caveat that I don't think existing Cal-Maine investors should be panicking right now -- I'm personally content watching Cal-Maine Foods stock from the sidelines.