Back in December, I checked in on Russian dairy and juice concern Wimm-Bill-Dann
In the negative sense, there was a whiff of something unpleasant in that over the first three quarters of 2004, Wimm-Bill-Dann failed to maintain its profitability of yesteryear. Net profits actually fell by nearly 10% despite a 27% rise in sales. But in the positive sense, I suggested that "the trend certainly looks optimistic for Wimm-Bill-Dann's emerging into free cash flow-positive territory in the not-too-distant future."
Not too distant indeed. In fact, just one quarter later, Wimm-Bill-Dann has finally turned the corner and has emerged into not just GAAP profitability, but positive cash generation as well. Whereas the company saw $61 million in net cash outflows in 2003, Wimm-Bill-Dann managed in 2004 to turn things around sufficiently to collect $7 million worth of beautiful, green cash.
In recognition of that achievement, Wall Street dropped the stock by more than 5%. Huh? Well, let's look at a few more of Wimm-Bill-Dann's numbers to figure out just what Mr. Market was thinking.
Year-on-year, Wimm-Bill-Dann grew its sales by 27%. Not bad. Out of that, the company retained 20% more gross profits than it did the previous year. Call me a Fool for saying so, but that sounds pretty good, too. Next, subtract out all the sales, general, and administrative expenses, as well as profit taxes and the like, and net income increased 8% to $23 million for the year.
Aha! I suspect that the single-digit profits growth is what got Mr. Market's dander up. Wall Street has come to expect double-digit growth as far as the eye can see, thanks to companies like GE
So never mind that Wimm-Bill-Dann had the same amount ($0.52) of net profits per basic share as net profits per diluted share. Never mind that its share count hasn't increased at all over the past year. And never mind that the company is buying up every dairy and juice concern from Vladivostok to Krasnoyarsk, from Moscow to Odessa. And most importantly, never mind that Wimm-Bill-Dann finally reached the economy of scale to begin producing cash without the need to spend so much on building capacity.
No, Mr. Market, just sell this emerging market titan down 5% because its reported profits growth isn't what you're used to seeing. Fools with more foresight will be happy to take your shares off your hands for you.
Unless, of course, we're dissuaded by the thought of what can go wrong by investing in Russia:
Fool contributor Rich Smith has no position in any of the companies mentioned in this article.
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