Food & Beverage

Kraft Heinz delays the announcement of long-term turnaround plan, shares tumble

Key Points
  • Kraft Heinz's sales declined in the fourth quarter, despite higher prices.
  • The company also disclosed impairment charges of $666 million.
  • The food giant will unveil its turnaround plan in May.
Kraft and Heinz products
Scott Olson | Getty Images

Kraft Heinz said Thursday it would be pushing back the unveiling of its turnaround plan from March to May.

The announcement came as the company saw its sales decline in the fourth quarter, despite higher prices. Net sales fell 5.1% to $6.54 billion, missing Wall Street's estimates of $6.61 billion.

Kraft also disclosed impairment charges of $666 million, including writing down the value of its Maxwell House trademark by $213 million.

People familiar with the matter told CNBC that the Oscar Mayer owner had put the coffee brand up for sale last year but encountered tepid interest from potential buyers. Private equity buyers were wary of the investment needed to reinvigorate the brand and corporate buyers were unexcited about packaged coffee as more and more people get their caffeine on the go or through premium machines like Nestle's Nespresso. 

The company's stock, which has market value of $33.7 billion, fell 7% in afternoon trading on Thursday. Shares have fallen more than 41% over the past year.

"I know many of you were expecting a March date versus a May date for the unveiling of our strategy," CEO Miguel Patricio told investors on the conference call Thursday. "But with Carlos Abrams-Rivera coming in as our new head of the U.S. zone I wanted to make sure we have his full input as we detail our multiyear plans for the bottom up, before we present it to you."

Abrams-Rivera joined Kraft in January after serving as the president of Campbell Soup's snack division. Prior to his hiring, Patricio was serving as interim president of the U.S. zone, in addition to his duties as chief executive.

A year ago, the food giant wrote down the value of its iconic Kraft and Oscar Mayer brands and surprised Wall Street by reporting a quarterly loss. After an executive shakeup, Patricio, as the company's new chief executive, has been tasked with turning the company around. He told analysts that his focus in 2020 will be to stabilize the business.

—CNBC's Lauren Hirsch contributed to this report. 

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