Thursday, May 10, 2007

Sara Lee Running On The Spot

Sara Lee (NYSE:SLE) reported an increase of 9.2% in revenues for Q3. While on the surface 9.2% increase sounds good they also announced that the media and promotional spend increased 28%. Sounds like the marketing program has encountered significant friction or may be just misfiring. While some significant product categories performed better than the average, no one approached the 28% level. Management needs to publicly address the discrepancy. Consumer marketing companies with mature established products cannot and should not tolerate these kinds of failures.

Sara Lee's press release reported operating profit of $152 million for Q3 07 compared to $151 million for last year. Sara Lee essentially was running on the spot while increasing revenues. They did resort to the magic trick of share buy backs and made the EPS number go up.

To achieve the share buy back they spent $490 million. They increased long term borrowings by $2.9 Billion and significantly reduced the dividend that they are paying. These numbers far outweigh the 28% marketing increase that does not seem to be working.

Sara Lee when sales go up 9.2% the bottom line should reflect the positive changes. The bottom line is more a result of financial engineering and not operating performance.