The Hershey (HSY) Q1 2012 Earnings Call April 24, 2012 8:30 am ET Executives Mark K. Pogharian - Director of Investor Relations John P. Bilbrey - Chief Executive Officer, President, Chief Operating Officer and Director Humberto P. Alfonso - Chief Financial Officer, Chief Administrative Officer and Executive Vice President Analysts Mineo Sakan - UBS Investment Bank, Research Division Jason English - Goldman Sachs Group Inc., Research Division Kenneth Goldman - JP Morgan Chase & Co, Research Division Robert Moskow - Crédit Suisse AG, Research Division Andrew Lazar - Barclays Capital, Research Division David Driscoll - Citigroup Inc, Research Division Bryan D. Spillane - BofA Merrill Lynch, Research Division Christopher Growe - Stifel, Nicolaus & Co., Inc., Research Division Unknown Analyst Vincent Andrews - Morgan Stanley, Research Division Gretchen Guo Thilo Wrede - Jefferies & Company, Inc., Research Division John Baumgartner Eric R. Katzman - Deutsche Bank AG, Research Division Jonathan P. Feeney - Janney Montgomery Scott LLC, Research Division Presentation Operator
Let me remind everyone listening that today's conference call may contain statements which are forward-looking. These statements are based on current expectations, which are subject to risk and uncertainty. Actual results may vary materially from those contained in the forward-looking statements because of factors such as those listed in this morning's press release and in our 10-K for 2011 filed with the SEC.If you have not seen the press release, a copy is posted on our corporate website in the Investor Relations section. Included in the press release is a consolidated balance sheet and a summary of consolidated statements of income prepared in accordance with GAAP. Within the Notes section of the press release, we have provided adjusted reconciliations of select income statement line items quantitatively reconciled to GAAP. As we said within the note, the company uses these non-GAAP measures as key metrics for evaluating performance internally. These non-GAAP measures are not intended to replace the presentation of financial results in accordance with GAAP. Rather, the company believes the presentation of earnings, excluding certain items, provides additional information to investors to facilitate the comparison of past and present operations. We will discuss first quarter result excluding net pretax charges of $33.6 million or $0.09 per share diluted, which are primarily related to the Project Next Century program. Our discussion of any future projections will also exclude the impact of these net charges, non-service-related pension expense and acquisition and integration costs related to Brookside Foods. With that out of the way, let me now turn the call over to J.P. Bilbrey. John P. Bilbrey Thanks, Mark. I'm pleased that the Hershey Company generated solid quarterly results in Q1 of 2012. We expected to get off to a strong start as the first quarter is essentially the only period of the year where we realized pricing across the board. We continue to support our brands with the right level of investments to succeed in the marketplace across all channels. This has resulted in achievable, predictable and consistent growth, which has been ahead of the long-term targets we established in 2008, and we did this against the backdrop of consumer uncertainty. Importantly, the CMG, candy, mint and gum category continues to outpace other parts of the store. For the 12 and 52 weeks ended March 24, 2012, the CMG category growth was, again, greater than the historical growth of 3% to 4%.
Given the high household penetration, impulsivity of the category, as well as affordable price points, we believe retailers across all channels will continue to value the confectionery category. As a result, we would expect the category to continue to consistently secure key merchandising space and programming.In the first quarter, Hershey's net sales increased 10.7%. Bert will provide you with details, but growth was primarily driven by pricing. Everyday, U.S. core brand performance was in line with our expectations and volume elasticity modeling, while Easter was slightly stronger. Our International business continues to be strong, contributing about 2 points to the overall top line growth. Now looking at retail takeaway. CMG retail takeaway for the 12 weeks ending March 24, 2012, for our custom database in channels that account for over 80% of our retail business, and as a reminder, these channels include food, drug, mass, including Walmart and convenience stores increased plus 6.4%. If you were to add the other fast-growing retail outlets like club and dollar [ph], which will be available to you around midyear, and that the Easter products scanned in all channels between March 24 and April 8, our retail takeaway is in line with first quarter U.S. net sales. Looking at syndicated data here excluding Walmart, Hershey's, FDMxC retail takeaway was up 4.7%. Hershey FDMxC CMG market share in Q1 was flat in line with our expectations. Note that syndicated data currently excludes our market share performance at our largest customer and in the fast-growing value channels where we continue to do well. Additionally, the year-ago period benefited from our major product launches, primarily Reese's Minis that occurred earlier in the year given the late Easter. In 2012, the window between Valentine's and Easter was closer, necessitating seasonal merchandising and programming on the floor much earlier than the prior year. Therefore, we plan to launch our more significant innovation to launch in Q2 and beyond. We expect that this will have a favorable impact on our FDMxC market share performance in the coming months and quarters.
Given these moving parts, I'm pleased with the overall category performance in the first quarter. Investments in the category in the form of advertising and innovation are present for most major manufacturers, and it appears that competitor new product launches were skewed to the first quarter. For the 12 weeks ended March 24, FDMxC CMG category growth, including seasonal activity in both the current and year-ago period, was also up plus 4.7%.Read the rest of this transcript for free on seekingalpha.com