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United Natural (UNFI) Down 1.3% Since Last Earnings Report: Can It Rebound?

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A month has gone by since the last earnings report for United Natural Foods (UNFI - Free Report) . Shares have lost about 1.3% in that time frame, outperforming the S&P 500.

Will the recent negative trend continue leading up to its next earnings release, or is United Natural due for a breakout? Before we dive into how investors and analysts have reacted as of late, let's take a quick look at the most recent earnings report in order to get a better handle on the important catalysts.

United Natural Reports Q4 Loss, Lags Sales Estimate

United Natural posted sluggish fourth-quarter fiscal 2023 results, with the top line missing the Zacks Consensus Estimate and the bottom line tumbling year over year. Reduced inflation-led procurement gains and increased shrinkage hurt profitability. Management expects to keep witnessing these headwinds as it continues to cycle escalated inflationary benefits in the first half of fiscal 2024.

UNFI is on track to invest across the supply chain and technology infrastructure to improve cost structure and enhance customer and supplier experience.

Quarter in Detail

United Natural’s adjusted loss came in at 25 cents per share against earnings of $1.27 reported in the year-ago quarter. The metric was narrower than the Zacks Consensus Estimate of a loss of 47 cents.

Net sales rose 2% to $7,417 million, missing the Zacks Consensus Estimate of $7,426 million. The year-over-year upside can be attributed to gains from inflation and new business. Benefits from new business resulted from selling expanded or new categories to existing and new customers. A decline in total units sold somewhat offset these factors.

Sales increased across most of UNFI’s channels, except Retail and Other. Chains, Independent retailers and Supernatural channels witnessed sales growth of 0.5%, 1.3% and 9.5%, respectively. Retail and Other channel sales fell 1.9% and 3.7%, respectively.

United Natural’s gross profit fell 8.3% to $966 million. We had expected gross profit to decline 9.9% to $948.4 million. Excluding the non-cash LIFO charge in both periods, gross profit fell 9.6%. Gross margin (excluding non-cash LIFO charges) of 13.5% contracted from 15.2% in the year-ago quarter. The downside can mainly be attributed to reduced levels of procurement gains, fewer benefits from inflation and increased levels of shrink.

Operating expenses were $1,004 million compared with $980 million reported in the year-ago quarter. Investments in the transformation initiatives that resulted in increased costs and escalated occupancy-related costs were a downside.  

Adjusted EBITDA came in at $93 million, down 56.3% from $213 million reported in the year-ago quarter. We had expected adjusted EBITDA to come in at $ $87.6 million, down 58.9% year over year.

Other Updates

The company ended the quarter with total liquidity of nearly $1.52 billion, including cash of nearly $37 million and a borrowing capacity of about $1.48 billion under the company’s asset-backed lending facility. Total outstanding debt (net of cash) was $1.95 billion.

Free cash flow during the fourth quarter was $117 million. United Natural bought back nearly 791,000 shares for nearly $21 million during the quarter.

The company expects capital expenditures of nearly $400 million for fiscal 2024.

Fiscal 2024 Guidance

For fiscal 2024, the company anticipates net sales in the range of $30.9-$31.5 billion. The company expects adjusted EBITDA in the $450-$550 million range. Net loss is envisioned to be $36-$110 million. The company anticipates fiscal 2024 bottom line to be between a loss of 88 cents per share and earnings of 38 cents.

How Have Estimates Been Moving Since Then?

In the past month, investors have witnessed a downward trend in estimates revision.

The consensus estimate has shifted -114.64% due to these changes.

VGM Scores

Currently, United Natural has a great Growth Score of A, though it is lagging a lot on the Momentum Score front with a D. However, the stock was allocated a grade of A on the value side, putting it in the top 20% for this investment strategy.

Overall, the stock has an aggregate VGM Score of A. If you aren't focused on one strategy, this score is the one you should be interested in.

Outlook

Estimates have been broadly trending downward for the stock, and the magnitude of these revisions indicates a downward shift. It's no surprise United Natural has a Zacks Rank #4 (Sell). We expect a below average return from the stock in the next few months.

Performance of an Industry Player

United Natural is part of the Zacks Food - Miscellaneous industry. Over the past month, General Mills (GIS - Free Report) , a stock from the same industry, has gained 2.5%. The company reported its results for the quarter ended August 2023 more than a month ago.

General Mills reported revenues of $4.9 billion in the last reported quarter, representing a year-over-year change of +4%. EPS of $1.09 for the same period compares with $1.11 a year ago.

General Mills is expected to post earnings of $1.17 per share for the current quarter, representing a year-over-year change of +6.4%. Over the last 30 days, the Zacks Consensus Estimate has changed +0.1%.

The overall direction and magnitude of estimate revisions translate into a Zacks Rank #3 (Hold) for General Mills. Also, the stock has a VGM Score of D.

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