(By Balaseshan) Food product supplier Sysco Corp. (NYSE:SYY) reported a 8% decline in quarterly earnings due to an increase in operating expenses. Increasing product costs and an uneven economic recovery also impacted earnings.
Profit for the fourth quarter fell 8% to $309.27 million, while earnings per share (EPS) decreased 7% to $0.53. Adjusted EPS for special items declined 1.8% to $0.55, while adjusted EPS for underlying business rose 3.3% to $0.62.
Sales increased 5.9% to $11.045 billion. Food cost inflation, as measured by the estimated change in Sysco's product costs, was 3.3%. Inflation in the fourth quarter was mainly driven by rises in the poultry, meat and canned/dry goods categories.
Analysts, on average, polled by Thomson Reuters had expected a profit of $0.54 per share on revenue of $11.04 billion for the fourth quarter.
Sales from acquisitions (within the last 12 months) increased sales by 0.6%, and the impact of changes in foreign exchange rates for the fourth quarter decreased sales by 0.5%. Case volume for the company's Broadline and SYGMA operations combined grew 3.4% during the quarter including acquisitions, and 3.3% excluding acquisitions.
Operating expenses increased $103 million or 7.4%, due in part to a $38 million increase in gross business transformation expenses, a $20 million increase in payroll expense, and a $6 million increase in fuel expense. The expenses also included certain items totaling $23 million that was primarily related to an MEPP withdrawal thus creating an unfavorable year-over-year variance.
Cash flow from operations was $1.4 billion for the fiscal 2012, a 29% increase compared to $1.1 billion in the prior year period. Free cash flow increased to $620 million in fiscal 2012 from $455 million in the previous year, an increase of 36%.
SYY closed Friday's regular session at $28.84. The stock has been trading between $25.09 and $31.18 for the past 52 weeks.