General Mills (GIS) Investors May See a Turnaround

With the stock already down 8.5 percent year-to-date, expectations are fairly low for General Mills, Inc. (NYSE: GIS) ahead of its fiscal first-quarter earnings release expected out before the opening bell on Wednesday morning. However, if new CEO Jeff Harmening is able to deliver on the much-needed growth he promised investors when he took over the company in June, the stock could easily shift back to its winning ways.

General Mills is coming off a multi-year cost-cutting and restructuring initiative aimed at streamlining its business and maximizing its profitability. After cutting 5,000 jobs in the past three years, Harmening believes General Mills will have the maneuverability to compete with smaller, specialty food companies. He also says the company will now have the resources to invest heavily in online sales and innovative organic and specialty food products.

Part of Harmening’s long-term plan involves increasing food sales on leading e-commerce sites such as (AMZN) and Wal-Mart Stores (WMT). Harmening also wants to target international markets.

Investors have been patiently waiting for the restructuring initiatives to pay off. In June, General Mills reported a 3 percent year-over-year decline in revenue in the fiscal fourth quarter, its eighth consecutive quarter of negative revenue growth. At the same time, General Mills stock has gone nowhere, down 0.2 percent overall in the past two years.

CNBC analyst Jim Cramer says any signs of growth from General Mills would be a green light for investors.

“It’s been a tough run for a very well-run company and, even as it’s tried to make its offerings more natural and organic, the numbers just haven’t been there,” Cramer says. “But it’s got a new CEO, Jeff Harmening, and he may have some answers.”

Wall Street analysts are not optimistic that those answers will come on Wednesday. Consensus analyst estimates are calling for earnings per share of 77 cents on revenue of $3.79 billion. That revenue number would represent yet another 2.8 percent decline.

Perhaps the only silver lining for patient investors is…

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