It’s never good when a CEO has to kick off his company’s year-end earnings report, as Kraft Heinz Co.’s did Thursday morning, by saying: “While our 2019 results were disappointing ...” Disappointing is putting it mildly, though. Try miserable.
To recap: It was one year ago this month that the packaged-food manufacturer suffered a $15.4 billion writedown because of damage — largely self-inflicted — to the value of two of its biggest brand names, Kraft and Oscar Mayer. A slash to shareholders’ dividends and the oh-by-the-way mention of a Securities and Exchange Commission inquiry into some accounting practices added to Kraft Heinz’s troubles. The stock, adored by Warren Buffett, its top shareholder, has been down 38% ever since. Right up until then, this was the company that most analysts promoted to their clients and every food giant wanted to emulate — a lean, profit-margin machine operated by a bunch of private equity guys that just so happens to sell food.