This week, Campbell Soup Co. (CPB) reported solid third-quarter earnings.
Revenues increased by 15% to $2.09 billion and earnings came to $181 million, or 57 cents a share, up from $177 million, or 55 cents a share in the same period a year ago. Adjusted for one-time items, earnings were 62 cents a share. The Street was looking for revenues of $2.04 billion and earnings of 56 cents.
Then again, CPB got a boost from the colder weather (the perfect time for soup, of course). The company also grabbed more valuable shelf space because of the bankruptcy of Wonder Bread (which gave more exposures to Pepperidge Farm products).
So can CPB keep up the momentum? To see, let’s take a look at the pros and cons:
Great Brands. Of course, the Campbell Soup brand is iconic. In fact, American’s consume about 10 billion bowls per year. Its Chicken Noodle, Tomato and Cream of Mushroom soups are among the top 10 food items sold in grocery stores every week, while market share is a hefty 60%. But CPB has other strong categories too, such as sauces and pastas. They include top brands like Prego, SpaghettiO’s and Campbell’s gravies.
Strong Leadership. In August 2011, Denise Morrison took the helm as CEO. She has over 30 years in the food business, with executive positions at companies like Kraft (KRFT), Nestle and Pepsi (PEP), and has wasted little time restructuring CPB. For example, she revamped the supply chain and closed down a variety of plants. She also made some savvy acquisitions, including BF Bolthouse. The company is a top player in the natural and healthy food category, which commands nice margins. At the same time, Morrison has invested heavily in innovation and product extensions, including the launch of premium products like Campbell’s Go, Slow Kettle and Gourmet Bsques.
Foreign Markets. This should be a big growth driver for the long-term. While CPB’s had its challenges — especially in Russia — the company has still seen traction in markets like Mexico and Singapore. The fact is that its brands generally have a global appeal. Plus, CPB has also been smart to pursue partnerships. Just look at Mexico. The company has arrangements with companies like Grupo Jumex, which is the largest fruit producer in the market, and Conservas La Costena, one of the largest producers of preserved foods. The deals have been crucial for getting distribution and manufacturing capabilities.
Beverage Business. This segment has been weak, with sales down 5% in the latest quarter. The problem is that V8 juices are perceived as not being fresh since they are sold off the shelf. Instead, consumers are looking for items in freezers, like Pepsi’s Tropicana Farmstand, which continues to take away marketshare from V8.
Foodservice Business. Unfortunately, this has been another weak part of the company. In Q3, the sales dropped by about 10% excluding the Blothouse acquisiton. A key reason was the loss of a major restaurant customer (although the company was not named) but the Foodservice market appears to be facing long-term headwinds. All in all, many restaurant operators have been trying to reduce costs, which means putting pressure on companies like CPB.
Customer Concentration. Five customers account for roughly 34% of CPB’s sales. And as should be no surprise, Walmart (WMT) represented 17% of sales. In other words, CPG is vulnerable to negotiation on terms, which could drag margins. Another factor: Some of the customers, especially grocers, are starting to launch their own private-label brands for soups.
No doubt, Morrison has made great strides. She has pulled off a turnaround in the core soup business, which saw a 14% increase in sales in the latest quarter — the biggest increase in about five years.
Her acquisitions have also been smart and she has been investing heavily in new product innovations and extensions. In other words, CPB appears to be back on track and could see sustainable growth and profitability.
Despite this, there are still problems, as I mentioned, which are compounded by the stock’s valuation. The company is trading for 17 times expected 2014 earnings — pretty pricey for a company that still has some lingering issues
Besides, the dividend yield is a lackluster 2.4%. Given all this, the cons outweigh the pros on the stock.
Tom Taulli runs the InvestorPlace blog IPO Playbook. He is also the author of High-Profit IPO Strategies, All About Commodities and All About Short Selling. Follow him on Twitter at @ttaulli. As of this writing, he did not hold a position in any of the aforementioned securities.