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How to Release Bad Earnings Reports: Cloak in Nonsense?

By William Peacock, Esq. on September 09, 2013 | Last updated on March 21, 2019

The popular consensus is that the soda industry is in a funk. American consumers are flocking to other "healthier" and "all natural" beverages, especially in lieu of diet soda. Fox Business tosses out a number of statistics to show the decline:

  • 71 percent of Americans have had a soft drink in a two-week span. In 2000, that figure was 81 percent.
  • In 1998, Americans consumed an average of 54 gallons of carbonated soft drinks per year. Now, it's 43.8 gallons.
  • Diet soda consumption has declined in each of the past six years, including 3.4 percent in 2012 and 2.5 percent in 2011.

Yeah. Good news for our health, bad news for the industry. What does a company do when their earnings reports reflect such realities?

Perhaps the answer is talk gibberish. The Wall Street Journal describes National Beverage Corp.'s earnings statement as "surreal" and "stream-of-consciousness." Our best comparison would be a poorly-done Google Translate version of a foreign website. Here is a sample from the full report:

"The consumer revolted in anger to yo-yo pricing; Big Cola's pricing tactics didn't stop the sales and market share declines. Yesteryear's shopper had higher disposable income and a more comfortable, content state of mind; discount pricing resulted in greater single purchases - NOT this tense summer of '13!"

And our favorite line, which needs to become an advertising slogan:

"Good soft drinks are to the human race what sunshine is to a picnic!"

What was the bottom line, earnings-wise? Comparing the first quarters of FY2014 to FY2013:

  • Revenues decreased 6% to $172 million
  • Net income decreased 16% to $12 million
  • Earnings per share decreased 16% to $.26

The company's stock prices were down 1.5 percent as of midday, reports WSJ.

We can only speculate as to what effect the earning statement's odd format had on Faygo-makers' stock prices. However, we do have a great suggestion for next year: have your biggest fans announce earnings, perhaps in the form of an ICP ballad.

Kidding aside, this may seem like a light-hearted way to announce bad news, but corporations and in house counsel should take care to avoid misleading the public, or communicating bad news in such an unintelligible manner. Mistakes could raise questions over whether they are properly complying with the Securities and Exchange Commission's plethora of rules regarding fair disclosure, especially since, in this case, the public nonsensical written disclosure came after a management call that was presumably less ... insane.

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