Executives from Unilever, Danone and Nestlé gave presentations at Sanford C. Bernstein’s Annual Strategic Decisions Conference in London last month.
As part of its analysis, the firm observed that Nestlé CEO Paul Bulcke and CFO Wan Ling Martello had “good chemistry”, in a post-conference report.
“Given the importance of a strong relationship between a company’s CEO and CFO, it was great to see how well Bulcke and Martello work together and complement each other,” the firm said.
It noted the company’s optimism, despite Bulcke’s comments on softer emerging markets and ongoing economic caution in developed markets – which is making it harder for the company to reach its targets for 5-6% organic growth and improved margins.
“We have more headwinds; we just have to wake up half an hour earlier,” Bulcke was reported as saying.
Commenting on European food companies as a whole, the analysts acknowledged very strong headwinds in 2014-15, but added: “We expect tailwinds for most companies in 2015.”
“After 2 years of slowing growth in 2012 and 2013 we expect some stabilisation in 2014 and a re-acceleration in 2015,” it said.
European dairy weakness
Danone’s CFO Pierre-André Terisse reiterated the company’s growth targets, but the analysts noted a “cautious tone” for fresh dairy, with negative (-5%) growth targets in Western Europe for the foreseeable future – despite forecasting flat growth during 2014 at the beginning of the year.
Unilever’s CFO Jean-Marc Huët, and president of Home Care Nitin Paranjpe, also reiterated their company’s guidance for fiscal 2014. However, they confirmed that market growth had slowed, both overall and in emerging markets.