Smucker reported fiscal fourth-quarter results that were above expectations and provided initial sales and EPS guidance that were largely as expected. More specific, EPS were $1.21, compared with our estimate of $1.13, consensus of $1.17, and $1.29 a year ago. Upside relative to our forecast was due to lower marketing expense, partly offset by a lower gross margin and higher tax rate.
Organic sales decreased by 9%, modestly below our forecast of an 8.5% decline, reflecting the rollover impact from price decreases taken in fiscal 2013, unfavorable mix, and modest volume growth. Management provided initial guidance for fiscal 2015, calling for EPS in the range of $5.95 to $6.05 (up 6.5% at the midpoint), with earnings growth expected to be more heavily weighted to the first half of 2015.
Sales are expected to increase by 5%, given commodity-driven pricing actions and expectations for modest overall volume improvement. We maintain our fiscal 2015 EPS estimate of $6.00 (up 6.5%) and published an initial fiscal 2016 EPS estimate of $6.40 (up 7%). We consider the risk/reward relatively balanced, with a portfolio of leading brands and healthy enterprisewide free-cash-flow generation countered by a soft consumer spending and competitive pricing environment.
Fourth-quarter EPS were $1.21, down 6% year-over-year and above our estimate of $1.13 and consensus of $1.17. Organic sales decreased by 9%, modestly below our forecast of an 8.5% decline and driven by an 8% reduction in price, unfavorable mix of 2%, and modest volume growth. Gross margin was 35.9%, down 20 basis points and 120 basis points below our estimate. Selling, general, and administrative expense (as a percentage of sales) was 19.7%, up 40 basis points but 170 basis points below our forecast.
Management provided initial fiscal 2015 guidance, calling for sales growth of 5% and EPS in the range of $5.95 to $6.05, which compares with our estimate of $6.00 and consensus of $5.94. We maintain our fiscal 2015 EPS estimate of $6.00 (up 6.5%) and published an initial fiscal 2016 EPS estimate of $6.40 (up 7%).
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