Tyson tops estimates with first quarter earnings

By Sarah Foster
Medill Reports

Ready-to-eat meals and a major tax overhaul helped Tyson Foods Inc. beef up its bottom line, soaring past analyst expectations, for the first quarter ended Dec. 30.

Profits for the U.S. meat giant, known for its Ball Park hot dogs and Jimmy Dean sausages, soared nearly three times to $1.63 billion, or $4.40 per diluted share, from $594 million, or $1.59 per diluted share, a year earlier. Diluted earnings per share nearly tripled analyst expectations of $1.50 per share.

The lowered U.S. corporate tax rate allowed for more than $300 million in savings, positively impacting the company’s profits. Tyson announced plans to invest more than $100 million back into the company, offering 100,000 eligible frontline employees one-time bonuses starting next quarter.

Excluding the tax overhaul, adjusted earnings per share rose to $1.81 compared with $1.59 a year earlier, topping analyst expectations of $1.50. Adjusted net income reached $670.1 million, compared with $593 million.

Sales rose 11.4 percent to $10.23 billion from $9.18 billion, also ahead of analyst forecasts, of $9.91 billion.

Shares climbed about 5 percent to $77.20 in pre-market trading after the company announced Thursday its second strongest operating income in company history.

“We’re creating a modern food company with a diverse portfolio of protein brands,” said Tom Hayes, the company’s president and CEO, during a conference call with investors. “We delivered solid results in all of our segments: beef, pork, chicken and prepared foods.”

The Springdale, Ark.-based company sold more than $8 billion in beef, chicken and pork last quarter, compared with $7.49 billion a year earlier. Revenue growth was driven by increased exports and strong consumer demand for the company’s main segments — beef and chicken — and led by an increase in sales of prepared foods.

The company began investing in the prepared foods sector last June with a $3.2 billion acquisition of ready-to-eat sandwich supplier AdvancePierre Foods Holdings Inc. Prepared food sales led in percentage revenue growth last quarter, with an increase of nearly 21 percent.

“We’re expanding our reach into new areas as we integrate the capabilities of Advance Pierre,” Hayes said. “As demand for protein grows, we’re well positioned to take advantage of this opportunity.”

Zain Akbari, equity analyst at Morningstar Inc., wrote in a note to investors, “We expect the acquisition to propel foodservice growth as Tyson’s value-added product portfolio expands, though we do not believe the prepared foods segment is large enough to confer an economic moat on the firm as a whole.”

Beef sales rose 10.2 percent, while sales in the chicken segment increased by 10.8 percent. Sales of pork decreased in the first quarter, due to weakening demand and price increases associated with higher livestock costs, the company stated in its press release.

Including the benefit of the lower tax rate, Tyson raised its fiscal 2018 forecast of adjusted diluted earnings per share to rise to $6.55 to $6.70. The company predicted that revenue in the second quarter ending March 30 would reach $9.8 million, slightly lower than in the first quarter.

The lower estimate is attributable to the seasonality of Tyson’s sales, said Stewart Glendinning, the company’s incoming chief financial officer.

The second quarter of the year is historically choppy, “with added margin pressure and increased freight and labor” costs, Glendinning said.

Tyson’s shares rose 54 cents, or .74 percent, to $73.92.

Photo at top: Tyson Foods announced strong earnings for the first quarter ended Dec. 30, soaring past analyst expectations. (Sarah Foster/MEDILL)