Hormel ends first quarter on high note

Hormel’s stock nearly doubled over the last year.
Hormel’s stock nearly doubled over the last year.

By Alison Martin

Hormel Foods Corp.’s shares climbed Tuesday after the food maker turned in stronger than expected fiscal first quarter results.

In the quarter ended Jan. 24, the manufacturer of consumer-branded food products reported its net income as $235.1 million or 43 cents per share, up substantially from the year-earlier quarter’s net income of $171.7 million or 32 cents. The reported earnings per share beat analyst expectations by six cents.

Revenues fell by four percent to $2.3 billion from last year’s $2.4 billion

Hormel Foods Corporation EPS by Quarter

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Hormel’s EPS beat analyst expectations by six cents. Source: Nasdaq (Alison Martin/MEDILL)

Chairman and CEO Jeffrey M. Ettinger said the company owed its success to “increased brand support, prudent capital investment, and portfolio-expanding acquisitions.”

The largest total segment operating profit – refrigerated foods – saw a 65 percent increase in operating profit, while dollar sales saw a more modest two percent increase. Hormel credited the profit upturn to higher pork operating margins.

The company’s Jennie-O Turkey Store – which makes up almost a quarter of the total segment operating profit – saw sales down by 15 percent from last year.

“The reductions reflect the substantial impact of the avian influenza outbreak that occurred in 2015, as previously lost flocks created significant volume shortfalls in plant operations and sales,” the company press release reported.

Citing its first quarter success, Hormel raised its earnings guidance range to a range of $1.50 to $1.56 per share; that’s higher than the $1.47 analysts surveyed by Yahoo Finance have been expecting.

Investors welcomed the news: In early-afternoon New York Stock Exchange trading, Hormel shares were up $3.70, or 7.4 percent, at $45.57. Hormel’s shares have climbed 44 percent over the last six months, even as the broad stock market has fallen by more than 10 percent

Analyst Brian Yarbrough at Edward D. Jones & Co. LP said Hormel’s bottom line numbers looked strong. Regarding Hormel’s high pork operating margins, He said Hormel buys hogs whole and sells the parts they don’t use, which contributes to the operating margins. Yarbrough described Hormel as benefiting from being in the middle of the “perfect storm” with bacon prices strong and commodity prices staying low.

“We do question how long how that can be such a tailwind,” Yarbrough added.

Photo at the top: Hormel’s stock price has moved dramatically higher over the past year. (Alison Martin/MEDILL)