Good and bad news in Fonterra’s annual report

Fonterra’s annual report has both good and bad news:

The good – last season’s payout dropped a cent but is still the third highest the company has achieved.

The bad – a net loss after tax of $196 million.

Federated Farmers Dairy Chairperson Chris Lewis says the company must do better.

“That’s the first full-year loss in their 18-year history. From a $745 million profit last financial year to a $200 million loss – that’s a big drop and they simply must do better. But I’m confident they’ll turn things around.”

Chris says farmers and shareholders will be looking for the new chief executive and chairperson to hit the ground running.

“I hope those two have a new broom for the shop floor. Good communication will be key.” . . .

Highlights:

  • Total Cash Payout for 2017/18 season: $6.79
    • Farmgate Milk Price $6.69 per kgMS
    • Dividend of 10 cents per share
  • New Zealand milk collections: 1,505 million kgMS, down 1%
  • Sales volumes: 22.2 billion Liquid Milk Equivalents (LME), down 3%
  • Normalised sales revenue: $20.4 billion, up 6%
  • Net loss after tax: $196 million
  • Normalised EBIT: $902 million, down 22% 
  • Normalised gross margin: 15.4%, down from 16.9%
  • Return on capital: 6.3%, down from 8.3%
  • Normalised earnings per share: 24 cents
  • Gearing ratio: 48.4%, up from 44.3%
  • FY19 forecast Farmgate Milk Price: $6.75 per kgMS
  • FY19 forecast earnings per share range: 25-35 cents 

It might be easier for a new chair and new, albeit acting, CEO to make the necessary changes to improve performance than it would had the board and management stayed the same.

Director elections are underway and could bring in some fresh talent that will help the process.

The media release continues:

Fonterra CEO Miles Hurrell says the Co-operative’s business performance must improve.

“There’s no two ways about it, these results don’t meet the standards we need to live up to. In FY18, we did not meet the promises we made to farmers and unitholders,” says Mr Hurrell.

“At our interim results, we expected our performance to be weighted to the second half of the year. We needed to deliver an outstanding third and fourth quarter, after an extremely strong second quarter for sales and earnings – but that didn’t happen.”

Mr Hurrell says that in addition to the previously reported $232 million payment to Danone relating to the arbitration, and $439 million write down on Fonterra’s Beingmate investment, there were four main reasons for the Co-operative’s poor earnings performance.

“First, forecasting is never easy but ours proved to be too optimistic. Second, butter prices didn’t come down as we anticipated, which impacted our sales volumes and margins. Third, the increase in the forecast Farmgate Milk Price late in the season, while good for farmers, put pressure on our margins. And fourth, operating expenses were up in some parts of the business and, while this was planned, it was also based on delivering higher earnings than we achieved.

“Even allowing for the payment to Danone and the write down on Beingmate, which collectively account for 3.2% of the increase in the gearing ratio, our performance is still down on last year.”

Mr Hurrell says when looking at the underlying performance of the business, which you can see in the normalised EBIT of $902 million, progress has been made in moving more milk into higher value products.

“While sales volumes were down 3% in FY18, a larger proportion of milk was sold through Consumer and Foodservice and Advanced Ingredients. In fact, 45% of our sales volumes were through these businesses and this is up from 42% in FY17, despite the higher input-price environment.

“Our Consumer and Foodservice business grew in all regions, except Oceania, with our strongest growth in Greater China. Of particular note, our Consumer business in China broke even this year, two years ahead of schedule. A big contributor to this success is the popularity of Anchor, which is now the number one brand of imported UHT milk in both online and offline sales in China.

“Despite this progress, performance across the Co-operative was below our expectations. Based on this, the Board has decided to limit our dividend to just the 10 cents paid in April and has confirmed the final Farmgate Milk Price for the 2017/18 season at $6.69 per kgMS,” added Mr Hurrell.

Plan for the future:

Mr Hurrell says these results are not just numbers – they’re the livelihoods of the Co-operative’s farmers and their families and the investment of unitholders.

“There are people depending on us – farmers, unitholders and employees who want to be part of a successful Co-operative. We are putting in place a clear plan for how we are going to lift Fonterra’s performance. It relies on us doing a number of things differently.

Fonterra’s Board and Management has outlined a plan based on three immediate actions:

  1. Taking stock of the business Fonterra will re-evaluate all investments, major assets and partnerships to ensure they still meet the Co-operative’s needs today. This will involve a thorough analysis of whether they directly support the strategy, are hitting their target return on capital and whether it can scale them up and grow more value over the next two-three years. This will start with a strategic review of the Co-operative’s investment in Beingmate.
  2. Getting the basics right – Fonterra has already begun taking action and fixing the businesses that are not performing. The level of financial discipline will be lifted throughout the Co-operative so debt can be reduced and return on capital improved.
  3. Ensuring more accurate forecasting – the business will be run on more realistic forecasts with a clear line of sight on potential opportunities as well as the risks. It will also be clear on its assumptions, so farmers and unitholders know exactly where they stand and can make the decisions that are right for them and their businesses.

And the outlook for the coming season:

The forecast Farmgate Milk Price for the 2018/19 season is held at the $6.75 per kgMS Fonterra announced at the end of August and the Co-operative’s forecast earnings per share range for FY19 is 25-35 cents.

At $6.75 per kgMS the forecast Farmgate Milk Price for the 2018/19 season is the third consecutive year of strong milk prices. That’s good for farmers and for rural economies where farmers spend 46 cents of every dollar they earn.

Chairman John Monaghan says the Co-operative is being clear with farmers and unitholders on what it will take for the Co-operative to achieve the forecast earnings guidance.

“For the first time we are sharing some business unit specific forecasts. Among others, these see the Ingredients and Consumer and Foodservice businesses achieving an EBIT of between $850 million and $950 million, and between $540 million and $590 million, respectively.”

“FY19 is about lifting the performance of our Co-operative.

“We are taking a close look at the Co-operative’s current portfolio and direction to see where change is needed to do things faster, reduce costs and deliver higher returns on our capital investments.

“This includes an assessment of all of the Co-operative’s investments, major assets and partnerships against our strategy and target return on capital. You can expect to see strict discipline around cost control and respect for farmers’ and unitholders’ invested capital. That’s our priority.”

The results are here.

 

One Response to Good and bad news in Fonterra’s annual report

  1. Tom Hunter says:

    I’m sorry to say that I gave up on these folk several years ago and am really glad I’m not connected directly to them.

    Yes, we need Fonterra to do well, but in reading Woodford’s descriptions of past attitudes within Fonterra I have the same feelings of dread that I had in the 1980’s reading about GM and Chrysler, or in the 1990’s with IBM.

    There’s something just not right with the management culture of the place, which is why we see continued failures despite new CEO’s, senior managers and Directors. And when you’ve got problems with the culture of a company that’s a damned hard thing to fix. Certainly the aforementioned US companies did not before it all turned sour.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: