B&G reported Q4’18 EBITDA of $59MM compared to $69MM in the prior year. While this was partially impacted by the sale of Pirate Brands to Hershey, it was still a tough comp due to input cost inflation (freight, procurement, as well as mix). As a result, EBITDA was 200bps lower as a % of sales than the prior year.
I expect B&G’s stock will react negatively to this (already down 10% after hours to $22) and I am disappointed with the stock’s performance since I wrote on it first in Aug 2017 (down ~25-30% depending on where it opens).
That said, I think there are a few positive take-aways from this quarter that will keep me grounded. Bottom line, I still think B&G is a long-term compounder. Food sector sentiment is particularly negative right now (especially with the KHC news) and 2019 should be an easier comp from a freight and inflation perspective.
- Green Giant Continues to Grow at Attractive Levels, Despite Challenges in Shelf Stable:
- Green Giant’s sales increased 4.9% this Q and grew 6.1% for the entire year. This has been mainly driven by new innovations in the frozen food aisle that have countered challenging trends in the canned, shelf stable category (down 8.2% for the year).
- Part of the thesis in buying B&G is that these managers are good at buying mature assets, harvesting the cash, and restarting the process (rinse & repeat). They sold Pirates Booty to Hershey for $420MM after they bought it for $195MM in 2013. I continue to think Green Giant was a solid acquisition.
- Given there are many other consumer staple brands struggling to date, I think this is an opportunity for B&G. They repaid $500MM of their TL with help of the Pirates’ sale so that also adds some capacity.
- Company is managing other mature brands well. Would you have believed me if I said Cream of Wheat increased sales 4.3% this Q? Or Ortega was up 7.2%? Excluding Victoria, which saw a $2.5MM decrease in sales from a shift in promotional activity, I think the company is doing a good job with this portfolio.
- Continues to generate significant FCF to support dividend. B&G pays $1.90 dividend which based on the after-hours quoted price currently amounts to a 8.6% yield. Typically, dividend yields that high imply the market thinks there is risk of being cut. Setting aside the fact that the company generated $165MM of FCF this year (reduced a lot of inventory), I still think the dividend is covered.
- Using ~66MM shares outstanding, this implies a $125MM cash use.
- Based on the company’s guidance range, this implies you are ~1.3-1.4x covered.
- Said another way, based on my FCF walk, we would need to see EBITDA decline 17% from the mid-point of guidance for it to be 1.0x covered.
Personally, I’d prefer if the company bought back a significant amount of stock at these levels. Unfortunately, the stigma of keeping a dividend out there forever (which is dumb) prevents that from happening (as the stock would get crushed).
Guide from the company: