Kraft Heinz (KHC) has been getting crushed. We discussed at length the issues weighing on the stock and why we saw $20’s as the level which we would like to enter the stock. Furthermore, we discussed how analysts in general were reacting to the implosion. Now there is yet another development on this interesting story. We now see that KHC has tapped investment bank Credit Suisse to review options for its Maxwell House coffee business, which could include a potential sale.
It is an interesting line to consider selling. The coffee business has roughly $400 million in earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortization. Based off valuations for other sales of consumer brands, a sale could fetch a price of at least $3 billion, they said, though cautioning its price would depend on buyer interest. The coffee industry has become more challenging in the past few years, but private equity firms have shown interest in buying some large, tired brands.
The sale of the coffee business will be one of a string of divestitures for Kraft Heinz, the people said, as it looks to reshape the empire put together by its private equity backer 3G Capital.
3G Capital, which, along with Berkshire Hathaway, bought H.J. Heinz in 2013 and merged it with Kraft two years later, has made its name in some big moves, while seeing a lot of pressure on its top line.
It is a struggle to ignite growth when a company is saddled with large, off-trend labels like Oscar Mayer and Velveeta, while facing rising costs. Those challenges have been exacerbated by 3G Capital’s cut-to-the bone approach to costs, which some analysts say has come at the sacrifice of its brands’ health.The firm extracted $1.7 billion in savings from combining Kraft and Heinz.
As it delivered the bad news, Kraft Heinz executives told investors last week to expect more divestitures going forward to help wipe debt off its balance sheet. The company is aiming to get its leverage down to three times earnings, rather than the four times analysts say it is currently pegged at. One notch lower of leverage can be impactful for a company facing margin pressure and profit declines. It could imply asset sales in the billions.
Kraft Heinz last year sold it Canadian dairy business and its Indian beverage business Complan. It said last week it is looking selling brands “with no clear path to competitive advantage.”
Maxwell House, once the country’s leading national brand, for years had mainly Folgers to contend with in the fight for space in Americans’ cupboards. For decades, it was enough to rely on its sponsored TV placements and its reminder that its coffee was “good to the last drop.” It was one of the first mainstream products to target Jewish shoppers, making it what the New York Times once called “the pioneer” of multicultural marketing.
But coffee culture has changed as Americans shift from homemade brew to splurging on a premium priced java grabbed on the go at omnipresent cafes. There is an ongoing coffee war in the United States.
Kraft Heinz has sought to
modernize its coffee business, offering on-the-go “iced coffee
antioxidant max drinks” and blends with customizeable caffeine levels.
It also bought fair trade brand Ethical Bean Coffee last year.
We wonder what other brands Kraft Heinz is expected to pluck from its portfolio.
Mood at the company, which saw its shares plummet nearly 30 percent on Friday, is dour, say people familiar. It is taking a no stone unturned approach to which brands it should or could unload, they say.
Speculation across Wall Street abounds. Bankers have wondered whether Kraft Heinz’s Planters nuts, Oscar Mayer meat or its frozen food business, could be one of the next potential brand it sheds. They cautioned decisions are still being made, and it is possible Kraft Heinz sells none of those units.
Analysts have noted that any divestiture will come under the cloud of the company having just written down it biggest brands by $15 billion.
Slimming down, according Kraft Heinz CEO Bernardo Hees,will give the company “a balance sheet that’s more flexible and more prepared for future consolidation.” Investors have been eagerly awaiting a large-scale deal since Unilever rebuffed its approach two years ago. Some analysts have expressed concern that 3G’s cost-cutting model only works when deals give it more fat to cut.
But others note that slimming down, along with its $15 billion write-down, could pave the way for Kraft Heinz to go private. Right now, though, the spotlight has been on the Jello-owner, which saw more than $16 billion of its market value erased in a day.