Mead Johnson Nutrition (MJN)

Q3 2011 Earnings Call

October 27, 2011 9:30 am ET


Kathy A. MacDonald - Vice President of Investor Relations

Stephen W. Golsby - Chief Executive Officer, President and Director

Peter G. Leemputte - Chief Financial Officer and Senior Vice President


Jason English - Goldman Sachs Group Inc., Research Division

Amit Sharma - BMO Capital Markets U.S.

Alexis Borden

Diane Geissler - Credit Agricole Securities (USA) Inc., Research Division

Robert Moskow - Crédit Suisse AG, Research Division

Timothy S. Ramey - D.A. Davidson & Co., Research Division



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Good day, ladies and gentlemen, and welcome to the Mead Johnson Nutrition Third Quarter 2011 Earnings Conference Call. My name is Katie, and I'll be your coordinator for today. [Operator Instructions] I would now like to turn the presentation over to Kathy MacDonald, Vice President of Investor Relations. Please proceed, Kathy.

Kathy A. MacDonald

Thank you, and good morning. Welcome to Mead Johnson's third quarter conference call. With me today are Steve Golsby, our Chief Executive Officer; and Pete Leemputte, our Chief Financial Officer.

Before we get started, let me remind everyone that our comments will include forward-looking statements about our future results, including statements about our financial prospects and projections, new product launches and market conditions that constitute forward-looking statements for purposes of the Safe Harbor provisions under the Private Securities Litigation Reform Act of 1995.

Keep in mind that our actual results may differ materially from expectations as of today due to various factors, including those listed in our annual report on Form 10-K for 2010, quarterly reports on Form 10-Q and current reports on Form 8-K. In each case as filed with or furnished to the Securities and Exchange Commission and our earnings release issued this morning, all of which are available upon request or on our website at

In addition, any forward-looking statements represent our estimates only as of today and should not be relied upon as representing our estimates as of any subsequent date. While we may elect to update forward-looking statements at some point in the future, we specifically disclaim any obligation to do so even if our estimates change.

Before we get started, I'd like to personally thank all of you who joined us 2 weeks ago at our investor day event. Since we provided a strategic overview and preliminary third-quarter results, we will try to keep this call brief. I will now turn the call over to Steve.

Stephen W. Golsby

Thank you, Kathy, and good morning, everyone. We've completed another strong quarter, and as you likely read in this morning's press release, our results were in line with the positive expectations shared with you at our investor day event 2 weeks ago, and our EPS came in at the top end of our preliminary estimate. Therefore, I'll keep my comments brief and focus on the key highlights of our strong sales and earnings results.

We delivered double-digit sales growth of 15% on a reported basis in the third quarter or about 11.5% measured in constant dollars. Non-GAAP earnings of $0.78 per share, up 37% from the prior quarter, came from strong sales growth in emerging markets, favorable foreign exchange impacts and a lower effective tax rate, offset in part by continued investments in demand generation activities and nonrecurring manufacturing inefficiencies. And as mentioned earlier this year, we're starting to see the gross margin impact of higher commodity costs. Pete will address the profit and margin in more detail in a few minutes.

Sales for the Asia/Latin America segment grew by 30% on a reported basis or 25% excluding the impact of foreign exchange. I should highlight that about 3% of sales growth for the segment came as the result that some retailers in Asia purchasing extra inventory in advance of the October transition to our new SAP technology platform. Excluding this factor, which is expected to reverse in the fourth quarter, constant dollar sales in Asia/Latin America grew by 22%.

Our strongest performance continues to be in China and Hong Kong, with growth well above the segment average. While many investors naturally focus on our performance in Greater China, we also have delivered double-digit constant dollar sales growth in the rest of Asia and Latin America in 2011. We've seen success in the execution of our strategies in most of our emerging markets.

In the North America/Europe segment, third quarter sales were 7% lower on a reported basis or down 8% measured in constant dollars. We expected this tough comparison due, in large part, to lapping of competitor's U.S. product recall commencing in September of 2010. Most importantly, our U.S. market share remains above third quarter 2010 and is evident that consumers value our many products innovations launched over the past year.

There were also some timing factors at work that reduced U.S. sales for the last quarter, including the phase out of one WIC contract in Indiana without the full phase-in on a new Mead Johnson contract to New England states that should be completed in the fourth quarter.

Importantly, volume continued to be the key driver of sales growth at 7.5% for the company in total, and a strong 19% in Asia and Latin America. Higher pricing added 4%, with both developed and emerging market segments seeing the benefit. We will continue to use pricing as well as productivity gains to manage gross margins as we move into 2012.

Turning now to our full year outlook. We've maintained our constant dollar sales growth projection at about 14% versus the prior year, with another 2.5% from foreign exchange. We expect to see annual sales growth slightly above 20% in Asia/Latin America with North America/Europe in the low single digits.

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