Sara Lee sales fall further than estimates

Posted by Isobel Drake on 13th August 2009

Sara Lee last night posted a 9.8% decline in net sales in the fourth quarter as unfavourable foreign exchange rates and asset sales combined to hurt revenue.

Brenda Barnes, Chair and Chief Executive Officer of Sara Lee, said their turnaround program was beginning to gain traction despite one of the toughest years on record.

“I am pleased to report that we’ve just completed our second consecutive year of strong overall performance, despite tough economic and competitive headwinds,” she said. “Our 2009 results reflect the significant progress we have made in transforming Sara Lee and focusing the company on core businesses with large and growing brands in important categories. We’ve dramatically improved efficiencies and productivity across the board, while fostering a culture of innovation and collaboration.”

Their household and body care segment, which they are trying to sell, was a major laggard and offset growth in other areas of their American business.

International results were also soft, pulled down by a weakening US dollar and a decline in volumes.

“Unit volumes (in International Beverages), excluding acquisitions/divestitures, decreased 1.8% in the fourth quarter, as strong roast and ground coffee volumes in Brazil and instant coffee volumes in the United Kingdom, Australia and Thailand could not fully offset lower unit volumes in Europe due to competition from private label and hard discounters,” the maker of Moccona and frozen cake products said. “International beverage unit volumes were down 2.8% for the year.”

Ms Barnes said that the company was hopeful of improvement in the coming year.

“We’ve built a solid foundation and will continue to invest in the future. We are confident that we will continue to execute our growth strategy in fiscal 2010 and in the years to come,” she concluded.