An analyst’s positive outlook for Farmer Brothers Co. helped shares of the Torrance coffee roaster perk up last week.
It was the latest upbeat development for Farmer Brothers, which on Sept. 9 announced its first annual profit in six years. The company followed up that announcement by holding its first investors’ conference call in its 102-year history.
On Sept. 24, Kara Anderson, an analyst at West L.A.’s B. Riley & Co., initiated coverage of the stock with a “Buy” and a price target of $31. That helped shares of Farmer Brothers rise 13 percent to close at $28.30 on Oct. 1, making the company one of the biggest gainers on the LABJ Index. (See page 24.)
“We put some people into the stock,” Anderson said. “Investors are becoming more aware of what’s happening with Farmer Brothers.”
Farmer Brothers produces and sells coffee to large clients including Target Corp. and McDonalds Corp., which market it under their own brands. More than half of the company’s shares are owned by the Farmer family and the company’s employee stock ownership plan.
Moves by new management brought in over the last couple of years have begun to yield rewards. Mike Keown was named chief executive in 2012 after Farmer Brothers lost $54.3 million in fiscal 2011, and Mark Nelson came on as chief financial officer last year.
Farmer Brothers announced Sept. 9 that it posted net income of $12.1 million (76 cents a share) for the fiscal year ended June 30, compared with a loss of $8.5 million (-54 cents) the year before. It was the company’s most profitable year since 2004.
Nelson attributed the results to a number of factors, including finally integrating the company’s 2007 acquisition of a specialty coffee maker in Portland, Ore., and the 2009 acquisition of a distribution business from Sara Lee Corp. The company has also recently introduced a hedging strategy to protect from commodity price spikes. Additionally, Farmer Brothers has been winning more clients and expanding existing relationships, Nelson said.
Anderson said she expects the company’s growth to continue as Farmer Brothers expands its client base, improves the quality of its products and keeps costs in check thanks to the streamlining of some operations, such as coffee buying.
After the events of the last month, Nelson said the company’s profile with the investing public is on the rise.
“We have a little more presence in the market,” he said.
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