By Steven Porter
Sealed Air Corp. shares surged Wednesday after the Bubble Wrap manufacturer turned in far-better-than-expected fourth-quarter earnings.
The company, which also manufactures Cryovac food packaging products as well as Diversey cleaning supplies, reported net income of $123.5 million or 62 cents per diluted share, up from $66.3 million or 31 cents per diluted share for the same period a year prior.
Revenues, meanwhile, fell 11 percent to $1.75 billion from $1.97 billion in fourth-quarter 2014.
Excluding one-time items, the company said, adjusted earnings per share were 76 cents, up from 59 cents fourth-quarter the year before. That significantly outperformed the expectations of 11 analysts surveyed by Yahoo! Finance who had, on average, predicted per-share earnings of just 50 cents.
The news sent Sealed Air stock soaring: in New York Stock Exchange trading, shares rose $3.20, or 7.9 percent, to close at $43.63.
“This is the third consecutive year where we executed on our commitments and delivered year-over-year operational improvements irrespective of the economic environment,” Sealed Air CEO Jerome Peribere said in a prepared statement.
The company, which employs about 23,000 people with customers in 169 countries, did away with its North American foam trays and absorbent pads business last spring. Its European food trays business was similarly divested last fall, according to documents filed with the Securities and Exchange Commission.
Also during 2015, Sealed Air bought back 16.1 million shares for more than $800 million.
Predicting a “multi-year turnaround story,” Baird Equity Research senior analyst Ghansham Panjabi, who covers packaging and coatings, set a target price for Sealed Air stock at $65 in a report published Wednesday.
“With new management acting as a change agent, we believe an increased focus on cost reduction (and) integration, product commercialization and improved pricing sets the stage for a transformative shift in company profitability,” Panjabi wrote.
Shares hit their record-high last August just shy of $56 apiece.
Annual earnings rose 30 percent to $335.4 million or $1.63 per diluted share, from $258.1 million or $1.22 per share in 2014. Revenues, meanwhile, fell 9 percent to $7.03 billion from $7.75 billion in 2014.
Looking ahead, the company plans to increase capital expenditures by 49 percent, to $275 million in 2016 from $184 million in 2015.
“Our performance in 2016 will be driven by ongoing productivity improvements, further adoption of our more advanced product portfolio, and early successes with our Change the Game initiatives,” Peribere said. “All of this will accelerate future growth and drive margin expansion.”