November 10, 2011 / 2:33 AM / 7 years ago

Green Mountain sales miss raises growth fears

(Reuters) - Green Mountain Coffee Roasters’ GMCR.O weak quarterly revenue raised fears about the company’s growth potential, as sales of its Keurig coffee makers did not rise as much as Wall Street had expected, sending its shares down 34 percent.

The lower-than-expected results come after influential short seller David Einhorn said on October 17 that he turned negative on the company and cast doubt on Green Mountain’s accounting practices and long-term earnings power.

The Waterbury, Vermont-based company, which missed sales estimates for the first time in more than eight quarters, reported fourth-quarter revenue of $711.9 million. Analysts were looking for $760.5 million, according to Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S.

“The fourth-quarter brewer sales growth trailed the measured growth at retail by NPD,” Canaccord Genuity analyst Scott Van Winkle said in a note.

Chief Executive Larry Blanford told Reuters that revenue missed the company’s own prediction, as some grocers and clubs pre-ordered in the previous quarter.

CEO Blanford also said the company’s audit committee had reviewed the allegations made by Einhorn and found that there had been no wrongdoing related to its accounts.

Blanford told Reuters that the company was confident in its business practices and had made no changes to them after Einhorn’s allegations. The CEO declined to comment when asked if the company would engage in talks with Einhorn.

KEEPS FORECAST

The company sold 1.3 million Keurig single-cup brewers during the fourth quarter, fewer than what most analysts were looking for.

Blanford said that though there would be some volatility in its results, demand for the company’s products from shoppers remained strong.

He pointed to data from the consultancy firm NPD which showed that sales of Keurig brewers at retail rose 56 percent in the quarter, and said the company was confident about demand and inventory levels going into the holiday.

Despite the weak quarterly results, Green Mountain forecast a profit for the holiday quarter that was largely above analyst estimates and kept its earnings outlook for fiscal 2012.

The company estimated an adjusted profit of 35-40 cents a share in the first quarter, compared with analysts’ average expectation of 35 cents a share. It also kept its forecast for adjusted earnings of $2.55-$2.65 a share for next year.

SHARES PLUNGE

Fourth-quarter net income was $75.4 million, or 47 cents a share, compared with $27 million, or 20 cents a share, a year earlier. Adjusted profit was 47 cents a share, compared with the 48 cents that analysts were expecting on average.

Shares of Green Mountain, the largest U.S. single-cup coffee company, plunged 34 percent to $44 after the bell.

Green Mountain saw the third-largest net increase in short positions on Nasdaq in the second half of October, with short interest rising to 24.7 million shares on October 31 from 17.1 million on October 14. That rise indicates that more people think that the company’s stock price and business will weaken.

At the after-hours trading price of $44, the stock is down 62 percent from an all-time high of $115.97 touched as recently as September 20.

Reporting by Mihir Dalal in New York. Editing by Robert MacMillan, Matthew Lewis and Richard Chang

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