|Bid||6.670 x 0|
|Ask||6.710 x 0|
|Day's range||6.630 - 6.730|
|52-week range||5.920 - 8.900|
|Beta (5Y monthly)||0.86|
|PE ratio (TTM)||N/A|
|Earnings date||27 Oct 2020 - 02 Nov 2020|
|Forward dividend & yield||0.32 (4.69%)|
|Ex-dividend date||24 Aug 2020|
|1y target est||1.09|
(Bloomberg) -- Smithfield Foods Inc. thought it was doing great. In the first quarter of this year, the pork giant’s earnings were up 190% over the same period in 2019. Then the pandemic hit, and the close quarters of meatpacking plants made them ideal places for the coronavirus to spread.Employee infection rates spiked, forcing temporary closures and sudden shortages in supermarket meat aisles. After its revenue plummeted in the second quarter, Smithfield and other meat processors started looking around for strategies to make sure the same thing didn’t happen again.While the industry has in some cases installed plastic shields between workstations and made other coronavirus-related changes, some executives contend social distancing isn’t feasible in such a labor-intensive environment. Smithfield, the largest pork company in the world with 42,000 employees in 40 U.S. locations, decided to invest in some relatively new technology to deal with the threat of contagion.Howard Anderson, the company’s chief engineer, said he reviewed a range of novel approaches, but was most hopeful when it comes to ionized hydrogen peroxide vapor—and a machine built by San Diego-based Puradigm and distributed by Dayton, Ohio-based Extreme Microbial Technologies (EMT).“What we liked about [the technology] is that it’s a proactive solution,” said Anderson. Many other options are passive, requiring that air be pulled through a unit to be treated. Smithfield, owned by Hong Kong-based WH Group, said it has installed the units in six locations, including a plant in Elizabeth, New Jersey, and Sioux Falls, South Dakota, with three more locations soon to follow.According to data collected by Food & Environment Reporting Network (FERN), some 42,567 meatpacking workers have tested positive for Covid-19 and 203 have died In the spring, the Smithfield plant in Sioux Falls became the number one virus hotspot in America, with a cluster of 644 confirmed cases among employees and people they were in contact with. In May, 76 workers at the largest of the Smithfield Foods plants in Tar Heel, North Carolina, became infected, according to local health officials.The U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration, the federal agency responsible for the safety of workers, recently fined Smithfield $13,494. The company is fighting the penalty. Smithfield declined to comment on how many of its employees have been infected or died in the pandemic.Read More: Smithfield Fine in Deadly Covid Outbreak Labeled ‘Paltry’EMT, which was started in 2016, contends the Puradigm technology it distributes is an environmentally safe way to help reduce coronavirus in the workplace. But experts say it’s a long way from being able to clear pathogens from the air.The backbone of the technology is a “coated honeycomb matrix” that, when hit by ultraviolet light, pulls moisture from the air and forms hydrogen peroxide. Particles are pushed out of the machine, spreading through a room and landing on surfaces. According to EMT, when the particles come into contact with pathogens, a chemical reaction neutralizes them.The company distributes standalone units for office spaces (which are the size of a waste-paper basket) or tech that uses a building’s heating and cooling (HVAC) system for bigger areas.According to the Trump administration, hydrogen peroxide is active against a wide range of microorganisms, including bacteria, yeasts, fungi, viruses and spores. But at high concentrations, the molecule can be harmful to humans. EMT contends the limited amount of vapor produced by the machines makes them safe for humans as well as food production. “This technology would not work fast enough, nor penetrate a droplet traveling through the air in time to inactivate it before hitting a person’s face.”In a study done for Puradigm by the University of Florida in August, the company’s technology was found to be 99.7% successful at reducing microbial contamination levels of the coronavirus on stainless steel surfaces. But this is only a first step toward total indoor protection, since most coronavirus transmission is believed to take place through airborne droplets.“Surfaces are responsible for maybe 5% of all transmissions. Likely much lower,” said Dr. Erin Bromage, an associate professor at University of Massachusetts, Dartmouth, and an infectious disease expert. “This technology would not work fast enough, nor penetrate a droplet traveling through the air in time to inactivate it before hitting a person’s face.”Still, Puradigm’s devices have been shown to work against a long list of contaminants that food companies were already worried about, including E. coli, Salmonella, Listeria and the norovirus.Dr. David Acheson, a food safety expert and former official with the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, said that if a vapor mechanism can kill the norovirus, it can kill the coronavirus. The FDA granted an Emergency Use Authorization for vaporized hydrogen peroxide to decontaminate N95 respirators, a process used by 6,300 hospitals across the U.S.“It’s a reasonable assumption that it will work on surfaces,” Acheson said. “But any evidence that it will prevent person-to-person transmission [is] a big question mark,”“This technology would not work fast enough, nor penetrate a droplet traveling through the air in time to inactivate it before hitting a person’s face.”Despite the questions, industry analysts are cautiously optimistic about the technology.“Let’s say we get a vaccine tomorrow that everyone wants to take, I think that as these investments move forward, it’s about future proofing [a building],” said John Walsh, an industry analyst at Credit Suisse. “It’s a way that buildings are going to help distinguish themselves to get people back into [office] spaces.”But for Nick Santhanam, a senior partner at McKinsey & Co., whether companies like Puradigm and EMT keep growing after the Covid-19 pandemic recedes remains an “open question.”“People are thinking about it, and clients are asking about it. You’re going to see a massive surge [in adoptions],” Santhanam said. “But will it keep going? That’s tbd.”Randy Mount, 51, chief executive of EMT, began his career in real estate remediation, eradicating contaminants like mold from residential homes. That was how he stumbled upon the use of vaporized hydrogen peroxide. “We could decontaminate anything,” said Mount. “Restaurants, homes, universities and schools—we started getting a reputation for being the guys to call.” In addition to Smithfield, his distribution list now includes French-owned Bonduelle Fresh Americas, which he said installed units in one of its four U.S. locations; sausage maker Glier’s Goetta, which has six units in its Covington, Kentucky, production facility; and Graeter’s Ice Cream, a 1,500 employee-company that has installed seven machines in its production facility in Mt. Auburn, Ohio.Installation costs are calculated by cubic feet and bio-load (the number or range of microorganisms in a facility). A machine for a typical food production facility of 5,000 square feet with 12-foot ceilings would cost about $11,000. Mount said his company is on track to make $10 million in sales this year.Vapor purification, or “nonthermal plasma,” was patented in 2014 by Puradigm. While some businesses began taking steps to address airborne threats long ago, most didn’t see the benefit, given the expense. The pandemic has changed that, creating a huge opportunity for businesses already in the field as more food-processing and food retail look for help. Padraig Lawlor, Puradigm’s chief operating officer, estimated his company’s 2020 sales will be $17 million, which includes resellers, distributors like EMT and its own sales. But next year, his projection is $72 million. Lawlor said the company is mulling an IPO for 2022.One retailer that put such precautions in place was Chipotle Mexican Grill, a restaurant chain which grappled with norovirus outbreaks in 2015 and 2017.In between those years, the company installed combination ultraviolet/vapor hydrogen peroxide systems built by RGF Environmental Group Inc. In 2018, Chipotle added separate restroom units to “address microbiological contaminants, including viruses that originate there,” wrote Kerry Bridges, Chipotle’s vice president of food safety, in an email.The air-purification systems sold by RGF are similar to what Puradigm makes, said Dr. James Marsden, RGF’s executive director of science and technology. Marsden was a professor at Kansas State University and led Chipotle’s food safety group after the norovirus outbreak. Florida-based RGF said its sales grew by 500% this year, and that it’s currently testing its product’s effectiveness against the coronavirus.At Chef’s Garden’s, a 350-acre vegetable farm in Huron, Ohio, that sells to high-end restaurants, business vanished when Covid-19 arrived. As the company pivoted to direct-to-consumer sales, Chief Executive Officer Bob Jones, Jr. looked for ways to protect his 140 employees. He installed units distributed by EMT in April, both to keep staff healthy and “protect the integrity of the product,” he said.Mike Willing, chief executive officer of Aloha Seafood in San Francisco, said his company’s biggest problem before the coronavirus was that when someone got the flu, it would spread like wildfire through the staff. In 2019, he installed machines obtained from EMT. Since then, Willing said he hasn’t had a single case of the coronavirus to report. “We feel more comfortable with it and my guys are ecstatic,” he said.(Corrects to clarify that EMT distributed products manufactured by and containing technology patented by Puradigm. )For more articles like this, please visit us at bloomberg.comSubscribe now to stay ahead with the most trusted business news source.©2020 Bloomberg L.P.
(Bloomberg) -- JBS Foods, the world’s largest meat producer, was issued a $15,615 fine for failing to protect staff from the coronavirus in a Colorado facility where at least six workers have reportedly died.The fine from the Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration, announced late Friday, came one day after U.S. regulators issued a penalty of $13,494 for a similar infraction by Smithfield Foods Inc., the first sanction against a meatpacker connected with a deadly Covid-19 outbreak.The fine levied against Smithfield drew outrage as inadequate from two senators, a former safety official and a major national union. OSHA said it was the maximum allowed by law.Sao Paulo-based JBS on Saturday called the OSHA citation “entirely without merit,” saying the federal agency was attempting to “impose a standard that did not exist in March” when the meat producer fought the pandemic “with no guidance.”The company’s Greeley, Colorado, facility “is in full compliance” with all recommended guidance, and has been audited by health and government experts, JBS said.OSHA also said the fine against JBS was the maximum allowable. JBS has 15 business days to comply, request an informal conference, or contest the findings.Six workers from the Greeley plant have died from coronavirus, according to Food & Environment Reporting Network, a non-profit that tracks outbreaks in America’s food system.Company Incentivized United Food and Commercial Workers Local 7, which represents more than 3,000 workers at the plant, put the death toll at seven in an emailed statement, and said the small fine “incentivizes the company to continue endangering its employees.” “It is immoral and unethical, but in the current administration, unfortunately not illegal, that OSHA waited seven months to investigate the unsafe working conditions that led to this deadly outbreak,” said Kim Cordova, president of UFCW Local 7. The meatpacking industry was an early epicenter of coronavirus as the disease rapidly spread among its often poorly paid, immigrant employees working in close quarters for extended periods. As of Sept. 11, at least 252 workers in meatpacking, food processing and farm had died, FERN’s data show.The Greeley facility has had 14 confirmed cases in the past three and half months, the company said in a statement.(Updates with union comment from eighth paragraph.)For more articles like this, please visit us at bloomberg.comSubscribe now to stay ahead with the most trusted business news source.©2020 Bloomberg L.P.
(Bloomberg) -- U.S. regulators issued their first sanction against a meatpacker connected with a deadly Covid-19 outbreak: a $13,494 fine against Smithfield Foods Inc. that drew criticism as inadequate from two senators, a former safety official and a major national union.Nearly 1,300 workers at Smithfield’s Sioux Falls, South Dakota, plant tested positive for the virus, 43 were hospitalized and four died between March 22 and June 16, according to inspection documents. The U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration said in a statement that the fine was the maximum allowed by law. Smithfield is owned by the Hong Kong-based WH Group Ltd.The meatpacking industry was an early epicenter of coronavirus as the disease rapidly spread among its often poorly paid immigrant employees working in close quarters. Democratic critics such as Senators Elizabeth Warren and Cory Booker have highlighted the toll the pandemic has taken on employees as emblematic of failures to protect frontline workers.Booker called the fine “paltry” in a tweet. Warren said it sent “a message that companies won’t face real accountability.” Debbie Berkowitz, who was chief of staff at the regulatory agency under President Barack Obama, disparaged the OSHA penalty as “barely a slap on the wrist.”OSHA cited the facility for one violation of a rule that employers keep workplaces free from recognized hazards that can cause death or serious harm. Inspection documents indicate the meatpacker failed to provide adequate social distancing.Berkowitz compared it unfavorably to fines of more than $200,000 each that California state occupational safety regulators issued this month against frozen-food manufacturer Overhill Farms Inc. and its employment agency for improper social distancing following an outbreak in which 20 workers tested positive and one died.Berkowitz, now health and safety director for the National Employment Law Project, said OSHA could have fined Smithfield separately for every area of the plant without adequate social distancing or sought a large penalty for a “willful” violation. Issuing only one citation for safety problems throughout the plant “is a choice they made,” she said.“Without Merit”Smithfield considers the OSHA action “wholly without merit and we plan to contest it,” Keira Lombardo, the company’s executive vice president of corporate affairs and compliance, said in a statement, noting that the agency didn’t issue guidelines for the meatpacking industry until April 26.“We took extraordinary measures on our own initiative to keep our employees as healthy and safe as possible so that we could fulfill our obligation to the American people to maintain the food supply,” Lombardo added, saying the company incurred $350 million in expenses related to Covid during its second quarter.Smithfield said in a letter to two U.S. senators that it was nearly impossible to social distance inside its plants. Spreading out workers would slow down meat production and could contribute to empty store shelves. “For better or worse, our plants are what they are,” Chief Executive Officer Ken Sullivan said. “Four walls, engineered design, efficient use of space, etc. Spread out? Okay. Where? To say it is a challenge is an understatement.”The North American Meat Institute, an industry trade group, said in a statement that meatpackers “quickly and diligently took steps to protect and support workers” and new Covid cases associated with meat production are now “trending down compared with cases nationwide.”Confirmed CasesA tabulation of local news reports by the Food & Environment Reporting Network totaled at least 42,123 confirmed Covid cases and 201 related deaths among meatpacking workers through Thursday.The United Food and Commercial Workers International Union, which represents workers at the Sioux Falls site and other meatpacking plants across North America, condemned the penalty in a statement Thursday as “completely insufficient” and “insulting.”In July, Smithfield asked a U.S. court to keep OSHA from obtaining documents related to employee reports of illness, Covid-19 test results, and interviews with its South Dakota plant workers.Smithfield said its employees “have legitimate privacy interests in this information” in its motion to quash the regulatory agency’s subpoena.OSHA served its subpoena on the South Dakota Department of Health on June 23, seeking records related to a Covid-19 outbreak at Smithfield’s Sioux Falls facility, which temporarily closed for more than three weeks after hundreds of workers had tested positive.That case has since settled.Smithfield’s Sioux Falls plant is one of the largest pork processing facilities in the country, representing 4% to 5% of U.S. pork production, according to the company’s website. It employs 3,700 workers. .(Updates with Elizabeth Warren comment in fourth paragraph)For more articles like this, please visit us at bloomberg.comSubscribe now to stay ahead with the most trusted business news source.©2020 Bloomberg L.P.