Sara Lee Splits from Coffee & Tea Business


While nobody does it like Sara Lee (NYSE: SLE ), it appears the global manufacturer has decided its international coffee and tea business can survive apart from the meats, bakery and household products it distributes. The news calls into question why recent beverage acquisitions were made by the company - were there plans to buy and sell-off all along?

SLE has been going through transitional phases as of late, with much its business being acquired by other companies. In October 2011, the brand's refrigerated dough business merged with Ralcorp Holdings (NYSE: RAH ), with another sale in November of its Fresh Bakery business. Most recently, the J.M. Smucker Company (NYSE: SJM ) took on SLE's North American coffee and hot beverage business in January, with tea and coffee acquisitions taking place since then.

With all the pieces of the pie being sliced and served to different companies, it is no wonder The Sara Lee board unanimously approved a 1-for-5 reverse stock split of shares of the common stock following its separation from the coffee and tea business.

During SLE's most recent earnings call, the coffee and tea category of the brand saw strong pricing with sales of singlets and capsules doing well. While lower volumes offset the positive trend, the full year outlook on the business appeared to be upbeat.

"Looking ahead to the full year, we are beginning to see commodity costs decline in the coffee and tea business and stabilize in our meat business. This should have some beneficial impact on our fourth quarter results, particularly for coffee and tea, and gives us confidence that we will end up within our existing guidance ranges," CFO Mark Garvey said on the May 3rd call.

While no answer has been given as to why the split is happening, the distribution of the CoffeeCo has been slated for June 28 after market close. Shareholders can expect CoffeeCo to pay a $3.00 per share special dividend, with the brewer then set to merge with a subsidiary of D.E MASTER BLENDERS 1753.

Could the reason for the separation be the constant success beaneries such as Starbucks (NASDAQ: SBUX ) and Green Mountain Coffee Roasters (NASDAQ: GMCR ) are experiencing? With Keurig-cup sales continuing to ramp higher over recent months, the competition may have been too much for SLE to take.

SLE may continue to part ways with portions of its business that would be better served under additional or new management, but one thing is for sure; coffee and tea will no longer be a part of "the joy of eating".

SLE closed yesterday at $20.90, up 7.51% year-over-year.

(c) 2012 Benzinga does not provide investment advice. All rights reserved.

The views and opinions expressed herein are the views and opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of The NASDAQ, Inc.

This article appears in: Investing , Stocks

Referenced Stocks: GMCR , RAH , SBUX , SJM , SLE


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