A Tasty Stock for Investors?
Geneva-based Givaudan, the world's biggest flavors and fragrances company, tells CNBC that 2012 has been "a very good year, especially in developing markets, which are growing at 14 percent."
Givaudan's CEO Gilles Andrier said this compensates some of the weakness the firm is seeing in Western Europe and partially in the U.S..
Givaudan,which has a 25 percent market share in the global flavors and fragrances sector, benefits from the increasing shift towards outsourcing of flavor ingredients by multinationals like Nestle, Unilever and Procter & Gamble.
Investors like the company's defensive nature, which makes it less dependent on the swings in global consumer demand.
"Our business is defensive by nature, we produce ingredients for a wide variety of products, such as basic soap in emerging markets like Africa and China, but also snacks or instant noodles in Asia and our products go all the way into fine fragrances," CEO Andrier told CNBC. "Our business is defensive because we are dealing with day to day needs."
Fine fragrances, which are used to make luxury perfumes for the likes of Prada and Dior, only make up 9% of the company's overall sales. In the first 9 months of 2012, fine fragrances saw a strong erosion in Europe and North America, which offset growth in Latin America.
Asked whether the looming "fiscal cliff" in the U.S. creates a big risk to Givaudan's business, CEO Andrier remains relaxed: "Falling off the "fiscal cliff" wouldn't be good, but U.S. consumers won't stop brushing their teeth and drinking their coffee as they read the morning paper. So we are defensive, even in the U.S."
But the company is looking towards emerging markets for even faster growth rates. By 2015, Givaudan aims to raise the share of developing markets sales to 50 percent, from 42 percent currently. And the firms is not just banking on the Chinese consumer.
"China makes up 5 percent of sales, India only 3 percent. But all of South East Asia makes up twice as much as China alone and there is very high potential growth in all of these markets, "Andrier said.
Despite its defensive character, Givaudan isn't fully immune to outside factors. The company's top line was heavily impacted by the strength of the Swiss franc. And in 2011, the flavor and fragrances maker posted a 15 percent increase in material prices. Givaudan buys 11,000 different ingredients, half of which are natural ingredients from 150 countries, such as vanilla beans from Madagascar.
Analysts at JP Morgan point out that Givaudan is exposed to a number of volatile input costs, which may not be recovered through pricing: "Natural ingredients can be in extremely short supply and highly volatile while a higher oil price may have a material effect on some of its commodities."
Allaying those fears, CEO Andrier told CNBC the firm will stick to its promise to recover the increase in raw material costs through 200 million francs in price increases in 2012.
To investors, that promise may be a tasty reason to stick to the stock. In fact, out of 24 analysts, 13 currently advise holding the stock.
Deutsche Bank analysts however expect the input price pressures to remain an issue for the company and do not see a full recovery of input cost increases though price hikes. It has the stock on a sell rating.
Meanwhile,JP Morgan analysts believe Givaudan is an "attractive niche play with above average growth, high profitability and high barrier to entry for competitors."
Analysts at Barclays agree and point to potentially higher dividend payouts as another reason to own the stock.