DEERFIELD, ILL. — Mondelez International remains optimistic about its performance in the snack market, despite weak volumes that weighed on sales in the past year. Aggressive cost savings and a one-time gain on the divestiture of its coffee business led to a 233% jump in net earnings attributable to Mondelez in the fiscal year ended Dec. 31, 2015, which increased to $7,267 million, equal to $4.49 per share on the common stock, from prior-year earnings of $2,184 million, or $1.29 per share.
But a strong U.S. dollar and soft demand across several markets contributed to a 14% decline in net revenues to $29,636 million from $34,244 million the year before. Higher prices helped Mondelez overcome lower volumes to achieve organic growth of 3.7% for the year.
The company posted a net loss in the fourth quarter of $729 million, which compared with net earnings of $500 million, or 30c per share, for the same period of the previous year. Results included a one-time charge of $778 million related to a change in accounting for the company’s Venezuelan operations. Adjusted earnings per share rose 20% on a constant-currency basis, the company said.
Net revenues for the fourth quarter dropped 17% to $7,364 million from year-ago revenues of $8,830 million, primarily as a result of foreign currency exchange and lost coffee sales.
Mondelez said its market share improved as the year progressed, driven by increased advertising and consumer support behind such key brands as Oreo and Chips Ahoy! cookies, Ritz crackers and belVita biscuits. Still, the company’s performance fell below global category growth, though. Executives said the shortfall was related to the impact of strategic actions and price elasticity experienced earlier in the year.
Executives said the company plans to continue reducing supply chain and overhead costs in the coming year to mitigate the impact of challenging economic conditions. Near-term headwinds include fragile recoveries in developed markets, recessions in Brazil and Russia, slowing growth in China and volatility in the Middle East and Africa, the company said.
Mondelez’s stock price fell by as much as 7% on Feb. 3, ending the day at $39.17 from the previous close of $41.95, after the company issued what it called a “prudent” guidance of at least 2% organic revenue growth in the year ahead. The outlook includes the impact of trade optimization and the elimination of less-profitable products.
The company also said it estimates global snacks category growth in 2016 to slow to a range of 3% to 4% due to the difficult economic environment.
Long term, however, Mondelez said it is well-positioned to succeed in the $1.2 trillion global snacking market.
|Irene Rosenfeld, chairman and c.e.o. of Mondelez|
“We are growing essentially in line with our categories in 2016, while we are expanding margins by 200 basis points,” said Irene Rosenfeld, chairman and chief executive officer, during a Feb. 3 earnings call with financial analysts. “I think it’s our ability to drive top- and bottom-line as one of the things that will continue to distinguish us.”
In North America, sales for the year grew 1% behind increased brand support and new product launches, including Oreo Thins cookies and belVita Bites biscuits. Ms. Rosenfeld said the company gained share in cookies and crackers in the United States.
“We actually feel quite optimistic about the outlook for our snacks in North America,” Ms. Rosenfeld said. “We’re seeing good progress, as we said, as we exited the year. The growth rate is in excess of the category-growth rate; in fact we are driving it…“And we’ve got a good innovation pipeline. I think we are well-staged to continue to drive growth in this geography.”