The List: Smashing expectations
PLANET BUSINESS:These five companies have had no trouble in meeting other people’s expectations during this particular earnings reporting season.
1 PepsiCo: The drink and snacks company has ended what chief executive Indra Nooyi said would be a “transitional year” with a very fizzy 17 per cent rise in fourth-quarter profit.
2 RioTinto: The world’s second-largest mining company had a better-than-expected second-half performance – sadly, in its case this meant a smaller- than-anticipated loss of $8.9 billion.
3 KBC: The Belgian financial group beat expectations for its quarterly profit, with even loan loss provisions in Ireland proving a little less awful than before.
4 Cisco: Tech spending by companies and governments is recovering somewhat, helping Cisco’s quarterly results come in ahead of the Wall Street consensus.
5 Heineken: Its 2012 profit also topped expectations, although the brewer soberly noted a certain “volume weakness” in austerity-bound Europe.
In Numbers: Bless you, my customers
The percentage climb in like-for-like fourth quarter sales at Reckitt Benckiser, as demand for brands like pain relief Nurofen and cough treatment Mucinex helped the company recover. “The cold and flu season was a good one,” observed chief executive Rakesh Kapoor.
The percentage share of Reckitt’s business that will relate to runny-nosed, watery-eyed misery and safe sex (it also makes Durex) by 2015, as the company edges away from detergents and dishwasher tablets.
The value of the global consumer health market in 2011, according to figures from Euromonitor. “Health and well-being is an important part of peoples’ lives these days,” said Kapoor wisely.
The Lexicon Abzocker
Abzocker is German for rip-off merchant, but it’s also applied to a group of people more usually referred to in English-speaking countries as “fat cats” – top executives who earn astronomical sums, sometimes even when their companies are haemorrhaging sales. In Switzerland, politician and businessman Thomas Minder has launched a petition to limit fat-cat pay called the “Abzocker Initiative”, that more than 100,000 Swiss citizens have now signed. In a March 3rd referendum, Swiss voters will decide whether executives should have their pay set by shareholders.
Getting to know: Bill Johnson
Bill Johnson has the good fortune to be chief executive of HJ Heinz, which has been purchased by Warren Buffett’s Berkshire Hathaway and Burger King owner 3G Capital in a $23 billion deal. The deal, according to Bloomberg, will net Johnson about $100 million, which is fabulous, although he did already pick up $16.2 million in compensation during the company’s last fiscal year, so it’s all relative. Johnson, who got the job in 1998, is only the sixth chief executive in the 143-year history of the company, which began by selling horseradish sauce. The big money will eventually make its way to Teresa Heinz Kerry, wife of US secretary of state John Kerry, who is the heir to the Heinz ketchup fortune.
Image of the week Horse sense
“Oh, but the French eat horse all the time, they think it makes a really nice dish etc, etc . . . ” Yes, yes, but that’s not really the point, is it? Presumably even regular consumers of gourmet equine delicacies dislike their food being mislabelled, but leaving that aside for a moment, horse consumption in France isn’t exactly all the rage. The average consumed a year is less than 300 grams (0.66 lb) a person – a fifth of what the French ate 30 years ago – and less than 1 per cent of the total meat they consume. And who could blame them for shying away if horse butchery shops, like this one in Marseilles, keep models of horses heads next to the chopping block? – (Photograph: Jean-Paul Pelissier/Reuters)