Pandemic Profiteering: Sanderson Farms, Nike, and General Mills
PROFITS BEFORE LOWER PRICES:
While Republicans in Congress play the blame game on inflation challenges, they’re conveniently letting their big corporate donors off the hook for the outsized role they play. Much like Congressional Republicans are exploiting the struggles of working families and small businesses navigating a once-in-a-lifetime pandemic, it’s clear many corporations are taking advantage of this moment for their own selfish gain.
More and more companies are using the pandemic to increase their wealth and line their shareholders’ pockets as they boast to their investors of record profits and healthy balance sheets. These corporations have a choice: they can reward themselves with lucrative stock buybacks and bigger CEO bonuses — or they can pass their success onto their customers with lower prices. As Accountable.US continues to document, too many companies are choosing to profiteer rather than do right by consumers and the economy.
- Sanderson Farms, the nation’s third-biggest chicken producer, can certainly afford to count their chickens before they’re hatched. The company saw net income increase by 1,508% over the prior year. Yes, you read that right: 1,508%.
- That’s not all from Sanderson Farms. Further concentrating an already broken market, in August, Sanderson, Cargill, and Continental Grain agreed to a merger that would create a new competitor representing about 15% of U.S. chicken production — valuing Sanderson at a whopping $4.53 billion.
- Shortly after General Mills announced price hikes of up to 20% on hundreds of items, the company reported an $800 million operating profit. We can’t help but wonder if those price increases covered the reported $998 billion in shareholder dividends and stock buybacks in just the first half of its 2022 fiscal year.
- Shortly after it announced incoming price hikes, Nike reported earning $1.3 billion in net income, while holding $10.75 billion in cash and cash equivalents. The company even managed to dole out $1.4 billion in stock buybacks and shareholder dividends during its second quarter.
EARNINGS CALLS HIGHLIGHTS
- Sanderson Farms (December 21): Sanderson Farms saw its net income increase by over $400 million from last year and even admitted that, “the increase in net income for the comparative periods is primarily attributable to significantly higher average selling prices…”
- General Mills (December 21): In mid-January, General Mills plans to hike prices as much as 20%, yet the company still manages to thrive with an operating profit of $800 million in its second quarter.
- Nike (December 20): Along with increased gross margin and diluted earnings per share figures, Nike reported a net income of $1.3 billion in its second quarter, a 7% increase from the prior year.
CORPORATE GREED IN ACTION
- Sanderson Farms: “Demand for our retail grocery products and demand from our food service distribution customers is currently favorable, resulting in selling prices for our products that are more than offsetting the elevated prices we are paying for feed grains….”
- Our Translation: Their price increases are covering much more than increased costs.
- General Mills Chairman and Chief Executive Officer Jeff Harmening: Harmening couldn’t stop himself from bragging about how much they’ve been able to pour back into their stakeholders’ pockets. “We returned nearly $1 billion in cash to shareholders in the first half of the year through dividends and net share repurchases.”
- Nike Executive Vice President and Chief Financial Officer Matt Friend: “The biggest drivers of gross margin expansion this quarter, and frankly, the biggest driver relative to what we had guided 90 days ago was the level of full price realization and lower markdown rates versus what we had anticipated for a holiday season.”