General Mills reported Wednesday that fourth-quarter profits fell 53% to $186.8 million, or 30 cents a share, largely because of a $260 million asset impairment charge from its struggling Green Giant frozen and canned produce line.
Excluding the Green Giant write-down and other charges, the company recorded per-share earnings of 75 cents for the quarter, up 12% on a year ago. Analysts polled by Thomson Reuters were forecasting 71 cents on average, according to the Minneapolis Star-Tribune.
“We made a strategic decision to redirect certain resources supporting our Green Giant business in our U.S. retail segment to other businesses within the segment,” General Mills said in a news release. “Therefore, future sales and profitability projections in our long-range plan for this business declined.”
Asset impairment charges recognize the decline in value of a brand or business line. “General Mills basically is saying it will spend less money on Green Giant — particularly marketing — therefore the business is worth less going forward,” the Star-Tribune said.
Reuters reported in March that General Mills was looking to sell Green Giant, which makes more than 160 different products.
“Green Giant’s strength is in frozen vegetables packed in sauces, a higher end of the market,” the Star-Tribune noted. “But fresh produce seems to be taking an increasing bite out of that business, as its sales have been falling.”
“I’m a little bit surprised at how far Green Giant has fallen,” one stock analyst said on General Mills’ conference call Wednesday. “It’s not every day we see an impairment charge to this degree.”
General Mills CEO Ken Powell described the company’s overall fiscal 2015 operating performance as “mixed.”
While the convenience store and foodservice segments delivered record profits, he said in a news release, “sales and profit declined for U.S. retail – our largest operating segment.” General Mills’ brands “gained share in categories representing 65 percent of our U.S. retail measured sales volume, but overall sales trends reflected the impact of changing consumer food preferences.”
General Mills closed Wednesday at $57.10, up more than 2%.