Whole Foods shares pop on in-line earnings, new board members

Key Points
  • Whole Foods posted adjusted earnings of 37 cents per share on $3.74 billion in revenue
  • Same-store sales were down 2.8 percent for the quarter, a shallower drop than Wall Street had expected.
  • Whole Foods is slated to appoint five new directors and named a new CFO as it works to turn around its struggling business.
Whole Foods beats Street, names new CFO

Shares of Whole Foods Market rose by as much as 3.5 percent Wednesday after the company named five new board members and a CFO, and released fiscal second-quarter earnings that met expectations.

The grocery store chain posted adjusted earnings of 37 cents per share on $3.74 billion in revenue.

Whole Foods had been expected to report earnings of 37 cents per share on $3.73 billion in revenue, according to Thomson Reuters estimates.

Whole Foods said it now expects full-year 2017 sales growth of about 1 percent or higher. Previously, the company had said its sales would be up 1.5 percent or higher.

Same-store sales were down 2.8 percent for the quarter — a shallower drop than Wall Street had expected. Analysts had called for same-store sales to fall 3 percent.

It was the seventh consecutive quarter of negative comparable store sales for Whole Foods.

The company reiterated that it expects same-store sales to be down 2.5 percent for the full year.

"We are accelerating our path to enhanced value creation to deliver better returns for our shareholders," said John Mackey, CEO of Whole Foods Market, in a statement.

The company appointed to its board Ken Hicks, CEO of Foot Locker; Joe Mansueto, executive chairman of Morningstar; Sharon McCollam, the former executive vice president and CFO of Best Buy; Scott Powers, CEO of State Street Global Advisors; and Ron Shaich, CEO of Panera Bread.

Keith Manbeck was tapped for chief financial officer post. Manbeck had been senior vice president of digital finance, strategy management and business transformation at Kohl's.

In late 2016, Whole Foods implemented a new board succession plan that was more in-line with policies adopted by other companies.

The company in November established a 15-year limit on the service tenure of new board members, and also added Google exec Mary Ellen Coe to the board. Coe was the first new board appointee to the board since 2008.

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The Austin, Texas-based chain has been under pressure from two major shareholders, who have called on Whole Foods to sell itself. The investors have criticized Whole Foods for its poor performance, and have suggested the chain could be merged with another grocer.

On April 10, one of those investors, Jana Partners, disclosed a nearly 9 percent stake in Whole Foods and suggested the "shares are undervalued and represent an attractive investment opportunity."

Whole Foods' stock has fallen sharply since peaking at $65.31 in 2013.

Over the past year, Whole Foods shares traded as low as $27.67, but since Jana announced its interest, the stock has rebounded.

Neuberger Berman is the other activist shareholder, with a stake of just under 3 percent.

— CNBC's Jeff Daniels contributed to this report