Conagra’s stock plummeted nearly 17 percent Thursday after the company flagged challenges in the Pinnacle Foods portfolio it purchased in October.
The earnings released Thursday were investors’ first look at Pinnacle’s operations after Conagra Brands’ $8.1 billion purchase of the frozen food maker.
It wasn’t a rosy picture: The division that makes Hungry Man TV dinners and Wish Bone salad dressing logged disappointing sales.
“Simply put, innovation and execution came up short,” Chief Executive Sean Connolly said of the newly acquired Pinnacle brands. “Near-term issues do exist in the Pinnacle business, but they are fixable and we are the right team to fix them,” he said.
Analysts at investment bank Credit Suisse already had flagged last month that Conagra might very well achieve savings by combining some administrative and marketing costs when it comes to integrating Pinnacle into its broader business. But the bank said Conagra likely would have to reinvest a “significant amount” back into those Pinnacle brands to turn around the ones that are laggards.
“Conagra’s success with Banquet and Healthy Choice demonstrates that it knows how to turn around struggling brands,” the analysts said in a note to clients. “We just think it will cost more to fix Pinnacle” than what many company watchers expect.
Meanwhile, CFRA, an outfit that gives investors recommendations on stocks, downgraded Conagra shares to “hold” from “buy,” taking a wait-and-see approach to the company’s fix-it abilities.
Conagra employs around 1,200 people in Omaha, it said recently. The company in 2016 moved its headquarters to Chicago.
The stock on Thursday closed at $24.28 a share, down 16.5 percent on a day the broader market fell 1.6 percent. So far this year, Conagra’s stock is down about 36 percent.
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