Hormel Foods Announces Best Financial Performance In Its History With Record Earnings

Nov 25, 1998, 00:00 ET from Hormel Foods

    AUSTIN, Minn., Nov. 25 /PRNewswire/ -- Hormel Foods Corporation
 (NYSE:   HRL) today reported the best financial performance in its 107-year
 history with record earnings for the year ended October 31.
     The Austin, Minn.-based marketer of consumer-branded meat and food
 products earned $139,291,000, or $1.85 per share of common stock on a diluted
 basis. This is an increase of 27.2 percent from earnings of $109,492,000, or
 $1.43 per share of common stock, from the previous year. The year-end results
 included a gain of $17,402,000, or $.23 per share, for the sale of  the
 company's Davenport (Iowa) gelatin and specialized proteins plant to Goodman
 Fielder Limited, Sydney, Australia. Excluding this one-time gain, the company
 generated record net earnings for the year of $121,889,000, or $1.62 per
 share, an increase of 11.3 percent over fiscal 1997. Fiscal 1998 was a 53-week
 year as contrasted to a 52-week year in 1997.
     Dollar sales for the year of $3,261,045,000 were virtually unchanged from
 the previous record of $3,256,551,000 recorded in 1997.
     For the 14-week fourth quarter, the company earned $45,152,000, or $.61
 per share, a 1.1 percent increase from the $44,669,000, or $.59 per share,
 reported for the 13-week concluding quarter of fiscal 1997. Dollar sales for
 the final quarter were $912,037,000, a 5.1 percent increase over fourth
 quarter sales one year ago of  $868,108,000.
     Joel W. Johnson, chairman of the board, president and chief executive
 officer, described the record performance as a team effort and had high praise
 for the company's core marketing groups. "Volume growth was very favorable
 with solid gains registered across all major divisions and, in many cases,
 faster than many of the categories in which we compete. Major marketing and
 growth strategies, fueled by record promotional expenditures, led to increased
 market share and distribution successes for some of the company's best-known
 product lines. Foodservice, meat products and grocery products each enjoyed a
 record profit year and was a major contributor to the company's overall
     Johnson did note a significant portion of the positive gains enjoyed by
 company operating units were mitigated by long-term supply agreements designed
 to buy hogs through purchasing contracts rather than in the spot cash market.
 "During much of 1998, live market prices were below the floor levels
 guaranteed by our contracts. The difference in these pricing levels is fully
 reflected in our reported financial results for the year and creates
 compensating balances with our hog producers. Should live hog prices rebound
 during the term of these contracts, Hormel Foods will benefit to the extent
 the compensating balances offset the higher live market prices."
     In a review of the year's highlights, Johnson singled out the Foodservice
 Group for recording another year of double-digit tonnage growth. Volume rose
 more than 20 percent in the fourth quarter and finished 17 percent ahead for
 the year which is far greater than the industry average. Tonnage of Bread
 Ready presliced meats, ham, poultry, beef and sausage, was especially strong.
 The entire ham category, including Cure 81 ham, Old Tyme ham, Curemaster ham
 and Hormel cooked hams, recorded new volume and distribution gains. Fresh pork
 was also a major contributor with tonnage up nearly 50 percent for the quarter
 and year.
     For the Meat Products Group, fiscal 1998 was its best year ever with
 profits at an all-time high and volume growth strong across virtually every
 product category.  High single or double-digit volume increases were developed
 for Hormel microwave bacon, Hormel fully cooked bacon and Hormel Canadian
 bacon breakfast meats. In the pepperoni category, Hormel pepperoni and reduced
 fat Hormel turkey pepperoni improved share of market, volume and distribution.
 The retail ham category, led by boneless and spiral-sliced varieties of  Cure
 81 ham, achieved record volume levels. Always Tender fresh pork and Always
 Tender flavored pork also reached new highs in volume and distribution and
 continued to advance their status within the company's product portfolio.
     The Grocery Products Division surpassed all previous records for profits,
 tonnage and dollar sales. Volume increases were recorded across all key
 product categories, including SPAM luncheon meat, Hormel chili, Stagg chili,
 Dinty Moore stew, Hormel chunk meats, the family of microwaveable foods and
 Hormel bacon bits, which became the number one market share leader in units
 sold in fiscal 1998.
     The past year was a disappointing one for Jennie-O Foods. Although record
 volume and sales increases were attained for the fourth quarter and the year
 as a whole, highly competitive selling prices reduced margins. Profitability
 was below expectations but improvement in the fourth quarter and progress in
 developing category share and distribution growth for major further-processed,
 value-added turkey products provide optimism for improved results in 1999.
     For Hormel Foods International (HFI), export sales and profits were the
 best in history with total tonnage and sales dollars setting new records. The
 company continues to be encouraged by the growing number of new retail and
 foodservice customers and the volume gains attained among larger accounts
 serviced by joint venture operations in Beijing and Shanghai, China. In the
 United Kingdom, a record category share was achieved for SPAM luncheon meat
 while launch of the Stagg chili line in both Canada and Australia has met with
 excellent success.
     On November 23, action taken by the Hormel Foods Board of Directors
 resulted in the company's 33rd consecutive annual increase in the dividend
 rate. The annual dividend on the common stock of the corporation was raised to
 $.66 per share from $.64 per share, amounting to a 3.1 percent increase. A
 quarterly dividend was declared on the common stock at the newly established
 rate of $.165 per share. The dividend is to be paid February 15, 1999, to
 stockholders of  record January 23, 1999.
     In other action, the company announced the distribution of $8,560,000 to
 employees as part of its discretionary profit sharing program. Under the
 profit sharing distribution, paid at the discretion of the company's Board of
 Directors, each eligible employee received, on average, a sum equivalent to
 2.41 extra base weekly paychecks. The payments were made companywide to
 eligible employees on Thanksgiving Day Eve, a tradition that has continued
 uninterrupted since 1938.

SOURCE Hormel Foods