Nestle confirms outlook as volume growth picks up

The maker of KitKat chocolate bars confirmed on Thursday its target to grow organic sales by 2-4 percent this year and improve its trading operating margin. (Reuters)
Updated 19 April 2018
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Nestle confirms outlook as volume growth picks up

  • Nestle expects restructuring costs of around 700 million Swiss francs this year
  • Growth in Europe, the Middle East and North Africa slowed to 2.2 percent, hit by declining prices

ZURICH: Food group Nestle confirmed its full-year guidance after organic sales growth accelerated to 2.8 percent in the first quarter of 2018, helped by improving volumes.
Nestle is among packaged food companies taking action after seeing sales slow as many consumers prefer fresh foods, reacting by cutting costs, divesting underperforming businesses and increasing efforts to innovate with new products.
The maker of KitKat chocolate bars and Maggi soups confirmed on Thursday its target to grow organic sales by 2-4 percent this year and improve its trading operating margin. It also said it was on track to return to mid-single-digit organic sales growth by 2020.
It also confirmed it expected restructuring costs of around 700 million Swiss francs ($723 million) this year.
Quarterly organic growth of 2.8 percent, which strips out currency swings and portfolio changes, was ahead of the average estimate of 2.5 percent in a Reuters poll and up from 1.9 percent in the final quarter of 2017.
Volume growth picked up to 2.6 percent, from 1.2 percent in the final quarter of 2017, but prices rose by only 0.2 percent, Nestle said in a statement. Price pressures were illustrated by a price row with European retailers.
There were also broadly positive reports from other consumer goods companies.
French yogurt maker Danone on Wednesday reported a 4.9 percent rise in first-quarter underlying sales, helped by strong demand for baby formula products in China
Anglo-Dutch Unilever reported first-quarter sales that met expectations, helped by volume gains, and maintained its full-year outlook.
For Nestle, growth in the Americas accelerated to 1.2 percent and Asia (AOA), at 4.7 percent, was also better than the previous quarter, while Europe, the Middle East and North Africa (EMENA) slowed to 2.2 percent, hit by declining prices, Nestle said.
Kepler Cheuvreux analyst Jon Cox said sales figures were better than feared, highlighting the improvement in the US.
“However, we are now in the execution phase of efforts to accelerate sales,” he said. “While there is an improvement, it is clearly going to take time to accelerate sales for a group the size of Nestle.”
Vontobel’s Jean-Philippe Bertschy said deflationary pressures in Brazil and Europe had led to the weak pricing, but the slightly better-than-expected figures should help market sentiment.
Shares in the group, which have lost around 10 percent of their value this year, were indicated to open 1.1 percent higher, according to pre-market indications by bank Julius Baer.
They are trading at around 20 times forward earnings, at a premium to Danone at just under 18 times and in line with Unilever.


OPEC cut ‘biggest in almost 2 years’

Updated 18 January 2019
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OPEC cut ‘biggest in almost 2 years’

  • OPEC said in a monthly report its oil output fell by 751,000 barrels per day (bpd) in December to 31.58 million bpd
  • OPEC expects 2019 global oil demand growth to slow to 1.29 million bpd from 1.5 million in 2018

LONDON: OPEC said on Thursday it had cut oil output sharply in December before a new accord to limit supply took effect, suggesting producers have made a strong start to averting a glut in 2019 as a slowing economy curbs demand.
The Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries said in a monthly report its oil output fell by 751,000 barrels per day (bpd) in December to 31.58 million bpd, the biggest month-on-month drop in almost two years.
Worried by a drop in oil prices and rising supplies, OPEC and its allies, including Russia, agreed in December to return to production cuts in 2019. They pledged to lower output by 1.2 million bpd, of which OPEC’s share is 800,000 bpd.
The reduction in December means that should OPEC fully implement the new Jan. 1 cut, it will avoid a surplus that could weaken prices. Oil slid from $86 a barrel in October to below $50 in December on concerns of excess supply.
OPEC expects 2019 global oil demand growth to slow to 1.29 million bpd from 1.5 million in 2018 although it was more upbeat about the economic backdrop than last month and cited better sentiment in the oil market, where crude is back above $60.
“While the economic risk remains skewed to the downside, the likelihood of a moderation in monetary tightening is expected to slow the decelerating economic growth trend in 2019,” OPEC said.
“This has recently been reflected in global financial markets. The positive effect on market sentiment was also witnessed in the oil market,” it said.
The supply cut was a policy U-turn after the producer alliance known as OPEC+ agreed in June 2018 to boost supply amid pressure from US President Donald Trump to lower prices and cover an expected shortfall in Iranian exports.
OPEC changed course after the slide in prices starting in October. A previous OPEC+ supply curb starting in January 2017 — when OPEC production fell by 890,000 bpd according to OPEC figures — got rid of a glut formed in 2014-2016.
In a sign of excess supply, OPEC’s report said oil inventories in developed economies had stayed above the five-year average in November.
The biggest drop in OPEC supply last month came from Saudi Arabia and amounted to 468,000 bpd, the survey showed.
Saudi supply in November had hit a record above 11 million bpd.
The Kingdom told OPEC it lowered supply to 10.64 million bpd in December and has said it plans to go even further in January by delivering a larger cut than required under the OPEC+ deal.
The second-largest was an involuntary cut by Libya, where unrest led to the shutdown of the country’s biggest oilfield.
Output from Iran posted the third-largest decline, also involuntary, as US sanctions that started in November discouraged companies from buying its oil.
Iran, Libya and Venezuela are exempt from the 2019 supply cut deal and are expected by some analysts to post further falls, giving a tailwind to the voluntary effort by the others.
OPEC said in the report that 2019 demand for its crude would decline to 30.83 million bpd, a drop of 910,000 bpd from 2018, as rivals pump more and the slowing economy curbs demand.
Delivering the 800,000 bpd cut from December’s level should mean the group would be pumping slightly less than the expected demand for its crude this year and so avoid a surplus. Last month’s report had pointed to a surplus.
The figures for OPEC production and demand for its crude were lowered by about 600,000 bpd to reflect Qatar’s exit from the group, which now has 14 members.