Sometimes the news just doesn't add up. Take Motley Fool Hidden Gems recommendation Fresh Del Monte Produce
The first dark cloud is the highly touted fresh fruit at fast-food purveyor Wendy's
But this month, the fresh fruit has been yanked from the Wendy's menu. Losing 6,535 Old Fashioned Hamburgers restaurants as outlets is certainly deflating for a strategy to broaden the distribution of fruit.
The next storm cloud falls under the proverbial dispute. For a decade, U.S. fruit exporters have claimed that the European Union's "banana quota" system was discriminatory. Eight years after the U.S. complained to the World Trade Organization, the EU pronounced the quota system dead. Until last week, the specific action the EU would propose for Jan. 1, 2006, was not known.
Last Friday, the EU proposed a tariff of 176 euro per metric ton on imported bananas from Latin America. Chiquita Brands
Contrast that with Fresh Del Monte Produce's support for the tariffs. Fresh Del Monte labeled itself "well-positioned" for an "open-market, tariff-only system." A call to management for comment or further explanation was not returned. For now, the tariffs are still subject to change and will be reviewed at a WTO meeting in Hong Kong this month. So we may never find out if the proposal would hurt Chiquita while leaving Fresh Del Monte well-positioned.
You see, the confusion arises from the fact that both companies get substantial amounts of bananas through Latin American sources, thus prompting the question I've presented above. Fresh Del Monte does have what some see as an advantage in its vertically integrated supply chain, thus lessening the bite. But the bottom line is that the eventual movement in spot and forward/contract markets should logically affect both companies' cost of procuring and/or producing similarly, thereby leaving us with the question we started with.
And let's not forget the final cloud. Fresh Del Monte produced spotty results in the third quarter that missed analyst estimates for revenue and income per share.
So, given the news background, why is this stock going sideways with a slightly upward bias? Sounds fruity (slang for wacko), doesn't it? Analysts expect the company to compound earnings by 9% annually for the next five years. With the stock trading for 10.7 times 2006 earnings and paying a 3.1% dividend, there's little downside risk, given the growth. But analyst estimates can change, and the news background leaves plenty of room to doubt current profit forecasts.
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