Glanbia has whey to go to regain investor confidence

Kilkenny food group’s share price has slumped in recent months amid concerns about its performance nutrition unit

 Glanbia chief executive  Siobhán Talbot: she says its  European business has  been affected  by the pace at which customers had been switching  from the group’s distributors to buying online. Photograph: Dara Mac Donaill

Glanbia chief executive Siobhán Talbot: she says its European business has been affected by the pace at which customers had been switching from the group’s distributors to buying online. Photograph: Dara Mac Donaill

 

They say profit warnings come in threes. The first alert often highlights a problem; the second comes as the company struggles to deal with it; while the third covers the big decisions needed to fix it.

Whether this old stock market cliché applies to Glanbia we’ll see, but the one-time golden child of Irish food is struggling and investors are walking.

The company’s shares have tanked 40 per cent this year on foot of a profit warning in July linked to a loss of earnings at its performance nutrition division.

The business, based on whey, the once-discarded byproduct of cheesemaking, repackaged as protein powders for gym-goers and dieters, has been the engine of growth for Glanbia for more than a decade.

So what’s gone wrong?

Chief executive Siobhán Talbot says the slump relates to a number of factors, including the deteriorating economic environment in Brazil, changes in its supply chains in the Middle East, where “geopolitical tension” has been mounting, and in India, where the market has been hit by regulatory changes and tariff increases.

The European business has also been affected, she says, by the pace at which customers had been switching away from the group’s distributors to buying online. And there is the appreciating dollar which has hit the bottom line in several markets.

These are all plausible explanations, but investors don’t seem to be buying into the company’s temporary blip narrative. A trading statement this week in which it talked about “actively addressing” the performance problems saw the shares drop a further 9 per cent.

In September, US investment giant Capital Group, the company’s second largest shareholder, notified the stock exchange it had cut its stake from 8 per cent last year to 5.6 per cent.

The company’s problems also come in the wake of its high-profile €302 million acquisition of the loss-making SlimFast brand. That was greeted negatively by investors though it appears unrelated to its current woes.

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