ORRVILLE, OHIO — Industrywide headwinds and certain discrete items contributed to lower-than-projected net sales and adjusted earnings per share for The J.M. Smucker Co. in the fourth quarter ended April 30. Mark T. Smucker, chief executive officer, cited higher trade spend for Folgers coffee, charges associated with a pet food recall and freight cost increases as factors negatively affecting results.
Shares of J.M. Smucker on the New York Stock Exchange sank by as much as 9% on June 7 and have plummeted by nearly 20% since the beginning of the calendar year.
“While not reflected in the fourth-quarter financial performance, the recent actions we’ve taken toward transforming our business are indicative of a new pace of change and sense of urgency within our company,” Mr. Smucker said during a June 7 earnings call. “They validate that we are focusing on those areas where we can win, realigning our portfolio to higher growth areas and on-trend categories.”
Net income in the fourth quarter was $185.9 million, equal to $1.64 per share, up 68% from $110.4 million, or 96c, in the prior-year period. On an adjusted basis, earnings per share increased 7% in the quarter. Net sales for the quarter were $1,781.3 million, which compared with year-ago fourth-quarter sales of $1,783.8 million.
For the fiscal year, net income was $1,338.6 million, equal to $11.79 per share on the common stock and up 126% from year-ago income of $592.3 million, equal to $5.11. Results were helped by a substantial nonrecurring benefit related to U.S. income tax reform. Net sales for the year totaled $7,357.1 million, down from $7,392.3 million in the year before.
“We established our strategic roadmap to define a clear path to delivering on our three key financial priorities: growing the top line, achieving significant cost savings and delivering earnings per share growth in line with our stated long-term objective,” Mr. Smucker said. “While performance underdelivered for the quarter, we remain steadfast that the actions we are taking position us to deliver against each of these priorities and will create long-term shareholder value that outpaces our peers. In fact, we are seeing improved trends in the first quarter.”
Over the past few months, the company has made progress in aligning its portfolio for growth, bringing to market “two of our most important innovations in recent years” with the launches of 1850 premium coffee and Jif PowerUps snacks, Mr. Smucker said. The company also acquired the maker of premium pet food brand Rachael Ray Nutrish and moved forward with plans to divest its U.S. baking business, which includes Pillsbury cake mixes. Additionally, J.M. Smucker has initiated a zero-based budgeting program.
“These actions are significant and directly align with our consumer-led strategy to be a food and beverage leader focused on high growth on-trend categories,” Mr. Smucker said. “These actions are also proof that we are moving faster in order to deliver growth and strengthen our financial performance.
“Further, they deliver on the four pillars of our strategic roadmap: innovation, investments, cost savings and acquisitions.”
For the year ahead, executives expect net sales to increase 13% over the prior year, primarily reflecting the latest pet food acquisition. Adjusted e.p.s. is expected to range from $8.40 to $8.65, up from $7.96, driven by contributions from the acquisition, the full-year benefit of a lower effective tax rate and cost savings initiatives.
“Fiscal 2019 will be a year of continued transformation and growth,” Mr. Smucker said. “While we are not satisfied with our fourth-quarter performance, we are positioned for long-term success in some of the best food categories: coffee, pet food, peanut butter, snacking. We have a strong mix of leading iconic brands and emerging on-trend brands, as evidenced by full-year 2018 sales growth for Smucker, Jif, Milk-Bone, Dunkin’ Donuts, Café Bustelo, Smucker’s Uncrustables and Nature’s Recipe, which underscores our ability to react to and capitalize on changing consumer needs.”