At-home carbonated-beverage machine maker SodaStream posted fourth-quarter earnings on Feb. 18 that included a double-digit sales decline and sharply lower profits as it officially transitioned its brand away from sugary soda and toward a sparkling-water focus. After a year of preparing for the shift, investors finally have some hard data about how consumers are warming up to the new business approach.
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Here's how the holiday quarter results held up against the prior year:
Data source: SodaStream's financial filings.
What happened this quarter?The headline numbers aren't strong, especially compared to a 2014 holiday period that was marked by a brutal 25% sales decline. Yet SodaStream did manage to hit management's Q4 sales target. Here's a look at key highlights from the quarter.
- Sales fell by 1% after accounting for currency changes as a 6% decline in the U.S. market was partially offset by gains in Europe.
- SodaStream sold 24% fewer sparkling-water machines year over year, and 8% fewer flavor packets. In the prior quarter, the comparable figures were -22% and -12%, respectively.
- Carbon dioxide canister refills, a key indicator of demand, rose by 7% compared to a 10% jump in Q3.
- Gross margin dipped to 48% of sales from 50%, and operating margin declined as well, falling by 1 percentage point to hit 5% of sales.
- SodaStream swung to a cash-flow-positive result as it generated $1.4 million of cash, compared to a $2.4 million cash burn in the prior year.
- Cash on hand fell to $35 million from $47 million due to investments in the supply chain and debt repayments that were only partially offset by positive operating results.
What management had to say
"During the fourth quarter, we began to witness the benefits of our efforts to create a stronger, more efficient organization and capture the market opportunity as consumers rapidly shift from sugared soft drinks to healthier water-based products," CEO Daniel Birnbaum said in a press release.
He highlighted the fact that SodaStream's sales were up against the prior quarter and roughly flat year over year.
Profits were higher than executives expected, he explained: "Operating income was ahead of plan as we meaningfully leveraged selling and marketing expenses." SodaStream's marketing and selling costs fell to 31% of sales from 34%.
"There is still work ahead of us in order to position the company for consistent profitable growth," Birnbaum continued, "but I am confident that our recent actions have us heading in the right direction and will create value for shareholders over the long term."
Looking forwardThe clearest indication of SodaStream's huge challenge ahead is the fact that starter kit sales dove by 24% over the holiday quarter. And while it's good news for profits that marketing costs are dropping, the decline suggests that the company hasn't yet found a new advertising message that resonates strongly with consumers.
On the other hand, SodaStream is cash-flow positive, which takes pressure off of the balance sheet and buys executives crucial time to work to reconnect with customers who have abandoned the brand. Many of them are still sparkling-water fans, as demonstrated by the fact that carbon dioxide refill sales rose by 460,000 in Q4 to 6.7 million.
The article SodaStream International Ltd. Achieves Positive Cash Flow as Profits Sink originally appeared on Fool.com.
Demitrios Kalogeropoulos has no position in any stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool owns shares of SodaStream. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.
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