General Mills (NYSE: GIS) retreated following the Q4 results and guidance marking an opportune time to buy the stock. The retreat is due to mixed results and guidance that left investors wanting more, but there is a bigger story. While tepid, the guidance calls for growth in a high-quality dividend growth stock that also increased its dividend.
The Q4 dividend increase is worth nearly 10% to investors and is an attraction all its own. The stock yields more than 2.7% following the sell-off, and it trades at a relatively low valuation for a consumer staple stock, which makes it attractive as sleep-at-night stock too.
The question is whether the market will support the stock at critical levels or if this retreat will pull back to even more attractive levels.
One reason to believe the market will support the stock is the institutions. The institutions own about 77% of the stock, influencing the market. They’ve been buying on balance for the last year, and the peaks and troughs in their activity are in synch with the recent price movement.
The institutional buying peaked in Q1 2023 when the stock price was trading near $76 and a critical break-out point set in 2022, and then they started selling on balance in Q2. That activity is timed perfectly with the recent top, and now shares are back near $76. Assuming the institutions step up to buy as they have in the past, the stock could rebound strongly from this level.
General Mills Falls On Mixed Results And Guidance
General Mills had a mixed quarter relative to the analysts' expectations, but that is the worst that can be said. The company reported $5.03 billion in net revenue for a gain of 2.9% compared to last year. The revenue is driven by pricing increases offset by volume declines and missed the Marketbeat.com consensus by 300 basis points.
All segments were affected by volume decline except the US Foodservice business; all segments were buoyed by higher pricing, and most saw margins better than expected. On an organic basis, revenue is up 5%, driven by a 6% decline in volume and a 10% price increase. FX shaved 100 bps off the result.
The margin news is mixed but ultimately bullish for the stock. The gross and operating margins contracted YOY, but the adjusted margin expanded. The adjusted gross margin widened by 120 bps to 35% and was only partially offset by an increase in SG&A.
Likewise, the GAAP EPS is down YOY but better than expected. At the same time, the adjusted $1.12 is up 1% YOY and is also better than expected.
Guidance is equally mixed but skewed in favor of margin and earnings potential. The company expects 2024 revenue to grow by 2% to 4% and adjusted earnings by 4% to 6%. These ranges put the revenue slightly below the consensus figure and the mid-point of earnings well above, which is good news for the balance sheet, the cash flow, and the dividend.
The company pays out about 50% of its earnings with earnings growth in the picture, so it should be able to sustain another high-single to low-double-digit dividend increase next year.
The Analysts Will Tip The Scale For General Mills
The analysts have supported General Mills all year with newly initiated coverages and an upwardly trending price target. The current consensus is up compared to last quarter and last year and implies about 5% of the upside from the pre-release price point. The high price target of $96, among the most recently set, is another 15% above that.
If this trend changes, the stock could be capped; if not, it’s another factor favoring a strong rebound.
General Mills' uptrend is still intact but is in danger of breaking. The post-release action has the market down near trend, so a move lower could snap upward momentum. If not, this market should regroup quickly and rebound with a chance of retaking the all-time high, consistent with the analysis outlook.