CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- Chiquita Brands International, reporting its full-year earnings for the first time as a Charlotte-based company, reported a $408 million loss for 2012, as the company restructured its business to cut costs and restart growth.
That’s down from a $57 million profit last year. One executive called 2012, which saw a major strategy shift, a new CEO, a corporate relocation, and a massive restructuring, a “very muddy year.”
The company has finished most of its restructuring, CEO Ed Lonergan told analysts Monday evening. The results of that plan, which was expected to save $60 million in annual costs, should start showing up in the bottom line this year, he said.
“Our restructuring is complete, and we’re seeing the results we expected,” said Lonergan, who was brought in to replace longtime CEO Fernando Aguirre last year.
Lonergan said the company had undergone “a lot of paring” in 2012, as Chiquita shed non-core businesses that Aguirre had built up to diversify the company. Lonergan said the company still has a few product lines to cut, but didn’t disclose them for competitive reasons. He said the company didn’t expect those cuts would cause the company to make any large cash outlays.
The company is still dealing with the aftershocks of the global financial crisis. Chiquita is taking steps to mitigate those effects: The company has switched its banana business in Greece to a cash-up-front model, for example.
For the fourth quarter, Chiquita reported a $335-million loss, compared to a $16 million loss for the same quarter a year ago. A number of non-cash charges, such as a $130-million income tax valuation, hurt the company’s results.
For the full year, Chiquita said its banana revenue fell 2 percent, to $2 billion. Salad and healthy snack sales were flat, at $953 million, but sales of higher-margin brand-name salad bags fell, and were offset by increased sales of lower-margin foodservice sales. Total revenue slipped about 1.6 percent, to just over $3 billion. That’s down from $3.1 billion last year, and $3.5 billion in 2009.
The company lost $8.85 a share in 2012, compared to a $1.25 per share profit in 2011.
Excluding one-time, non-comparable charges, Chiquita would have had a $7 million profit for the year, the company said.
Chiquita moved from Cincinnati to Charlotte last year, lured in part by more than $22 million worth of state and local incentives. The company promised to bring about 400 jobs. Chiquita cut about 15 jobs at its Charlotte headquarters as part of the restructuring last year, but was still ahead of its hiring goals for the incentives.
Lonergan remained upbeat. “Chiquita has made significant progress implementing its refocused strategic direction in the second half of 2012, and is well positioned for future growth,” he said.