General Mills, Inc. (GIS - Analyst Report) recently reaffirmed its financial guidance for fiscal 2014 at the Consumer Analyst Group of New York (CAGNY) investor conference.
Fiscal 2014 Outlook Retained
Earnings are still expected to grow at a high single-digit rate in the range of $2.87 to $2.90. However, as previously warned, currency headwinds will be greater than anticipated and any possible devaluation in the Venezuelan currency could result in earnings meeting just the lower end of the guided range.
The company continues to expect net sales to grow at a low single-digit rate and exceed $18 billion in fiscal 2014 on the back of new products and contribution from new businesses.
Second Half to Be Stronger
Management expects earnings to accelerate in the second half buoyed by strong new product launches, lower input cost inflation and easing year-ago comparisons. Commodity cost inflation is expected to be lower in the second half than in the first.
Earnings per share are expected to grow in a double-digit range in the second half with the strongest growth expected in the fourth quarter due to lower commodity cost inflation. Tax rate and shares outstanding are also expected to be below the year-ago quarter’s level in the fourth quarter.
Yogurt Challenges Continue
General Mills’ U.S yogurt business has remained challenging since fiscal 2013. The company had forecasted that the business would return to growth in fiscal 2014 through the launch of new yogurt items, increased marketing support and expanded distribution of Yoplait Greek blended yogurt. General Mills’ fiscal year ends in June.
However, at CAGNY, management noted that the rebound in yogurt sales has been slower than expected and it may not be able to restore growth in the U.S. yogurt business in fiscal 2014. However, management expects the business to rebound by calendar 2014.
Looking for Acquisitions/Expansion
General Mills has long been investing in new businesses through complementary acquisitions that increase its marketing strength. The company continues to be on the hunt for complementary tuck-in opportunities, especially in the emerging countries. The company is looking for expansion in India, Middle East and North Africa.
Other than that the CAGNY presentation also featured plans for improvement in the soft U.S. environment alongside an outline of international opportunities.
Other Stocks to Consider
General Mills carries a Zacks Rank #3 (Hold). Other better-ranked food stocks include J&J Snack Foods Corp. (JJSF - Snapshot Report), Post Holdings, Inc. (POST - Snapshot Report) and The Hain Celestial Group, Inc. (HAIN - Analyst Report). All the three stocks carry a Zacks Rank #2 (Buy).