MILWAUKEE — Sensient Technologies Corp. plans to divest its inks, fruit preparation and fragrance business lines, said Paul Manning, chief executive officer and president.
“These business lines have been significant headwinds for the company for several years,” he said in an Oct. 18 earnings call to discuss third-quarter financial results. “We believe we can refocus and maximize our investments in our core businesses and improve our overall product portfolio and growth prospects. I anticipate that our ability to deliver consistent results will be greatly improved without the headwinds and distractions of these business lines.”
The Milwaukee-based company initially will use the proceeds from the sale of the businesses to reduce debt, Mr. Manning said. Then, the proceeds will be used to acquire businesses in core focus areas, including food colors, cosmetics, pharmaceuticals, finished flavors, extracts and natural ingredients.
Sensient Technologies on Oct. 18 reported net earnings of $31.9 million, or 75c per share on the common stock, in the third quarter ended Sept. 30, which was down 33% from $47.2 million, or $1.12 per share, in the third quarter of the previous year. Revenue fell 7% to $317.7 million from $342.7 million. Sensient Technologies’ stock on the New York Stock Exchange closed at $60.60 per share on Oct. 18, down from a close of $66.44 on Oct. 17.
“The overall market in North America and Europe for food and beverages, which includes a broad array of product categories from pet food to soup, has been down for the trailing 12 months,” Mr. Manning said. “We have been directly impacted by the slowness, particularly in our flavor ingredient product lines, which has a significant presence in soup and yogurt as well as other categories.”
The Color Group in the third quarter reported operating income of $23.4 million, down 12% from $26.6 million in the previous year’s third quarter. Revenue of $127 million was down 6% from $135.1 million. Foreign currency decreased both revenue and operating income by about 2%. Lower sales in cosmetics, inks and industrial businesses offset continued growth in naturally sourced colors in foods and beverages.
Sensient Technologies has dealt with raw material inflation, particularly in synthetic food colors and inks within the Color Group, Mr. Manning said. Tariffs associated with the U.S.-China trade war are causing raw material prices to rise, he said, adding Sensient’s competitors who are not based in the United States are not dealing with the tariffs and the raw material inflation.
“Many of them can take different pricing strategies with their products to further take advantage of that situation, and so you have kind of a double whammy,” Mr. Manning said. “You get the raw material inflation, and you struggle to pass along the pricing because the passing of the pricing is only by U.S.-based firms, and so that's been a bit of a profit drag for us in color.”
The Flavors & Fragrances Group in the third quarter reported operating income of $17.6 million, down 29% from $24.8 million in the previous year’s third quarter. Revenue fell 9% to $167.6 million from $184.4 million. Foreign currency decreased operating income by about 1% and revenue by about 2%.
Companywide for the nine months ended Sept. 30, Sensient Technologies reported net earnings of $99 million, or $2.34 per share on the common stock, which was down 21% from $124.5 million, or $2.93 per share, in the same time of the previous year. Nine-month revenues fell 6% to $1,004.3 million from $1062.3 million.