Normalised EBIT was $902 million, down 22%, the Co-operative’s gearing ratio was up from 44.3% last year to 48.4% and return on capital was 6.3%, down from 8.3%.
Fonterra CEO Miles Hurrell says the Co-operative’s business performance must improve.
“There’s no two ways about it, these results don’t meet the standards we need to live up to. In FY18, we did not meet the promises we made to farmers and unitholders,” says Mr Hurrell.
“At our interim results, we expected our performance to be weighted to the second half of the year. We needed to deliver an outstanding third and fourth quarter, after an extremely strong second quarter for sales and earnings – but that didn’t happen.”
Mr Hurrell says that in addition to the previously reported $232 million payment to Danone relating to the arbitration, and $439 million write down on Fonterra’s Beingmate investment, there were four main reasons for the Co-operative’s poor earnings performance.
“First, forecasting is never easy but ours proved to be too optimistic. Second, butter prices didn’t come down as we anticipated, which impacted our sales volumes and margins. Third, the increase in the forecast Farmgate Milk Price late in the season, while good for farmers, put pressure on our margins. And fourth, operating expenses were up in some parts of the business and, while this was planned, it was also based on delivering higher earnings than we achieved.
“Even allowing for the payment to Danone and the write down on Beingmate, which collectively account for 3.2% of the increase in the gearing ratio, our performance is still down on last year.”
Mr Hurrell says when looking at the underlying performance of the business, which you can see in the normalised EBIT of $902 million, progress has been made in moving more milk into higher value products.
“While sales volumes were down 3% in FY18, a larger proportion of milk was sold through Consumer and Foodservice and Advanced Ingredients. In fact, 45% of our sales volumes were through these businesses and this is up from 42% in FY17, despite the higher input-price environment.
“Our Consumer and Foodservice business grew in all regions, except Oceania, with our strongest growth in Greater China. Of particular note, our Consumer business in China broke even this year, two years ahead of schedule. A big contributor to this success is the popularity of Anchor, which is now the number one brand of imported UHT milk in both online and offline sales in China.
“Despite this progress, performance across the Co-operative was below our expectations. Based on this, the Board has decided to limit our dividend to just the 10 cents paid in April and has confirmed the final Farmgate Milk Price for the 2017/18 season at $6.69 per kgMS,” added Mr Hurrell.
Plan to lift Fonterra’s business performance
Mr Hurrell says these results are not just numbers – they’re the livelihoods of the Co-operative’s farmers and their families and the investment of unitholders.
“There are people depending on us – farmers, unitholders and employees who want to be part of a successful Co-operative. We are putting in place a clear plan for how we are going to lift Fonterra’s performance. It relies on us doing a number of things differently.