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TreeHouse Beats on EPS, Revs Up

THS

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TreeHouse Foods, Inc. (THS - Snapshot Report) reported second quarter 2012 adjusted earnings of 60 cents per share, beating the Zacks Consensus Estimate of 58 cents. The adjusted earnings per share also surpassed the year-ago earnings of 43 cents by 39.5%. On a reported basis, earnings came in at 53 cents per share, compared with 39 cents in the year-ago quarter.

Quarter Highlights

Total revenue jumped 7.1% year over year to $527.4 million. The year-over-year improvement was attributable to positive effect of increased pricing and increase in segment revenue due to acquisition of Naturally Fresh Inc. in the previous quarter. However, revenue missed the Zacks Consensus Estimate of $535.0 million.

North American Retail Grocery segment

Net revenue for the segment surged 5.9% year over year to $371.5 million, driven by 4.8% increase in pricing and gains from the acquisition of Naturally Fresh and partially offset by reduction in sales volume in powdered drinks and soup categories. Direct operating income in the reported quarter increased 1.5% year over year to $54.9 million due to higher input and production costs being partially offset by pricing actions.

Food Away From Home segment

Net revenue for the segment jumped 11.0% year over year to $87.9 million, driven by 4.9% increase in pricing and gains from the acquisition of Naturally Fresh and partially offset by 3.7% reduction in sales volume of pickles and Mexican sauces. Also, direct operating income improved 4.0% year over year to $10.5 million in the quarter.

Industrial and Export segment

Net revenue for the segment upped 8.7% year over year to $68.0 million, boosted by increased pricing and overall sales volume. However, direct operating income dipped 21.6% year over year to $8.3 million, primarily due to higher input and distribution costs.

Openings and Closures

The company is highly focused on quality offerings along with optimization of production costs. In this connection the company announced closure of various facilities in the coming year.

TreeHouse expects to cease production at its Mendota, Illinois soup facility in the first quarter of 2013. The company plans to move the production to its Pittsburgh soup facility. Total closure cost (including non-cash asset write-offs, severance and other costs related to closure) is expected to be around $17.7 million. The plant closure has been planned in consideration of the declining retail sales trend of soups over the last five years.

TreeHouse also plans to stop production at the salad dressing facility at Seaforth, Ontario, Canada in the second quarter of 2013. Total closure cost (including non-cash asset write-off, severance and other costs related to closure) is expected to be around $17.3 million. The company aims ultimately to move production of salad dressings to other manufacturing plants which have undergone capacity expansion over the last two years.

2012 Outlook

The company expects total revenue to be around $2.2 billion, which will represent year-over-year increase of 8%. In addition, TreeHouse decreased its adjusted earnings per share guidance for 2012 and now expects adjusted earnings in the range of $2.75 to $2.90 per share, down from the previous guidance of $3.00 to $3.15. The pessimism reflects TreeHouse’s lower revenue expectations for soups in the coming quarters.

Our Take

We remain cautious about the strong earnings growth in the coming quarters considering the declining trend of company’s soup revenue. Based on this, we expect analysts to revise their estimates downward in the coming days. Currently, the Zacks Consensus Estimate for 2012 and 2013 are pegged at $3.07 and $3.43, respectively.

Illinois-based TreeHouse, which competes with the likes of Ralcorp Holdings Inc. , currently carries a Zacks #3 Rank, implying a short-term Hold rating. We also reiterate our long-term Neutral recommendation on the stock.

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