Nestlé announced its full year 2019 financial results. Nestlé closed its sale of its U.S. ice cream business for USD 4 Billion to Froneri on January 31st, 2020. Including the sale of a 60% stake in its Herta charcuterie cold cuts and meat products business to Casa Tarradellas.
Mark Schneider, Nestlé CEO, stated: “We saw strong progress in 2019, with key operating and financial metrics improving significantly for the second consecutive year. Organic growth accelerated, fueled by strong momentum in the United States and Purina PetCare globally. Profitability improved again and reached our guided range one year ahead of plan. Cash flow was strong, while underlying earnings per share and returns to shareholders reached record levels. In 2020, we expect continued organic sales growth improvement as we take further steps to decisively address underperforming businesses.
In 2019, we made significant progress in our portfolio transformation. We did what we said we would do and more. We are not done yet. We will respond to rapid changes in the industry and fast-evolving consumer preferences to position our portfolio for higher growth.
Nestlé will continue to focus on fast innovation. The launch of our premium Starbucks products, for example, has been a great success. We are very pleased with the speed of the product rollout and the positive response by consumers. The company is fully embracing the need for speed, as the rapid expansion of our new plant-based food and beverage offerings has shown. We are getting to market faster with must-have products.
Our shareholders are seeing reliable, sustainable and increasing cash returns even in turbulent times. A key driver is our sustainable dividend practice. We are proud to propose the 25th consecutive annual dividend increase to our shareholders this year.
We have also reaffirmed our sustainability leadership at a time when society is increasingly looking to business for solutions to the major environmental problems we are facing. In addition, we have made significant progress in making our workplace even more diverse and inclusive. New initiatives, such as our enhanced parental leave policy, reaffirm Nestlé’s status as an employer of choice around the world.
In the past few weeks, the spread of the coronavirus has required extraordinary effort from our team in China. We have focused on ensuring the safety of our people and their families and introducing protective measures for all our facilities. We are working closely with the Chinese authorities as they take measures to contain this epidemic, building on our significant experience and expertise on the ground. Our immediate thoughts are with the people directly impacted by this global health emergency. We stand in solidarity with the Chinese people and are working hard to ensure our nutritious food and beverages continue to be widely available, particularly those for the most vulnerable, the youngest and the oldest in society. The Greater China region is our second largest market, representing about 8% of global sales. It is too early to quantify the financial impact of this outbreak at the present time.”
The company also proposed Hanne Jimenez de Mora as a new member of the Board of Directors. Elections will take place at Nestlé Annual General Meeting (AGM) on April 23rd, 2020. “Let me first and foremost thank Beat Hess for his trusted advice and highly appreciated services for many years. At the same time, I am happy with the proposal of Hanne Jimenez de Mora. As an experienced top-level consultant, she will enrich the Board with her strategic management expertise across multiple industries. I value her experience as a successful entrepreneur and as a long-standing non-executive Board member of AB Volvo,” said Paul Bulcke.