Hasbro laying off 1,100 workers as weak toy sales persist into holiday season

Hasbro is laying off about 1,100 employees as the toy maker struggles with soft sales that have carried into the holiday shopping season, according to a company memo obtained by CNBC.

Hasbro had about 6,300 employees as of earlier this year, according to a company fact sheet.

Shares of the company fell more than 2% Tuesday. Rival Mattel’s stock also slipped.

“We anticipated the first three quarters to be challenging, particularly in Toys, where the market is coming off historic, pandemic-driven highs,” CEO Chris Cocks said in the memo. “While we have made some important progress across our organization, the headwinds we saw through the first nine months of the year have continued into Holiday and are likely to persist into 2024.

Hasbro, which already laid off hundreds of employees earlier this year, had warned in October that trouble was on the horizon. In the company’s most recent quarterly earnings report, Hasbro slashed its already-soft full-year outlook, projecting a 13% to 15% revenue decline for the year.

Popular toy brand sales had dropped significantly, Hasbro also said in the October quarterly report. Popular brands like My Little Pony, Nerf and Transformer had fallen 18% at the time, due to “softer category trends.”

Hasbro’s stock was down nearly 20% through Monday’s close.

Hasbro competitor Mattel had also warned of soft sales. Yet Mattel’s stock is up about 6% through Monday, powered a great deal by the box office success of the film “Barbie.” That’s still behind the 17% gain posted by the S&P 500 so far this year, though.

Retailers overall could be in for a tepid holiday season, and toys saw lower discounts for consumers when compared to discounts a year ago.

Read the full memo from CEO Chris Cocks:

Team,   

A year ago, we laid out our strategy to focus on building fewer, bigger, better brands and began the process of transforming Hasbro. Since then, we’ve had some important wins, like retooling our supply chain, improving our inventory position, lowering costs, and reinvesting over $200M back into the business while growing share across many of our categories. But the market headwinds we anticipated have proven to be stronger and more persistent than planned. While we’re confident in the future of Hasbro, the current environment demands that we do more, even if these choices are some of the hardest we have to make.   

Today we’re announcing additional headcount reductions as part of our previously communicated strategic transformation, affecting approximately 1,100 colleagues globally in addition to the roughly 800 reductions already taken.  

Our leadership team came to this difficult decision after much deliberation. We recognize this is heavy news that affects the livelihoods of our friends and colleagues. Our focus is communicating with each of you transparently and supporting you through this period of change. I want to start by addressing why we are doing this now, and what’s next. 

Why now? 

We entered 2023 expecting a year of change including significant updates to our leadership team, structure, and scope of operations. We anticipated the first three quarters to be challenging, particularly in Toys, where the market is coming off historic, pandemic-driven highs. While we have made some important progress across our organization, the headwinds we saw through the first nine months of the year have continued into Holiday and are likely to persist into 2024.  

To position Hasbro for growth, we must first make sure our foundation is solid and profitable. To do that, we need to modernize our organization and get even leaner. While we see workforce reductions as a last resort, given the state of our business, it’s a lever we must pull to keep Hasbro healthy. 

What happens next? 

While we’re making changes across the entire organization, some functional areas will be affected more than others. Many of those whose roles are affected have been or will be informed in the next 24 hours, although the timings will vary by country, in line with local rules and subject to employee consultations where required. This includes team members who have raised their hands to step down from their roles at the end of the year as part of our Voluntary Early Retirement Program (VRP) in the U.S. We’re immensely grateful to these colleagues for their many years of dedication, and we wish them all the best.   

The majority of the notifications will happen over the next six months, with the balance occurring over the next year as we tackle the remaining work on our organizational model. This includes standardizing processes within Finance, HR, IT and Consumer Care as part of our Global Business Enablement project, but it also means doing more work across the entire business to minimize management layers and create a nimbler organization. 

What else are we doing? 

I know this news is especially difficult during the holiday season. We value each of our team members – they aren’t just employees, they’re friends and colleagues. We decided to communicate now so people have time to plan and process the changes. For those employees affected we are offering comprehensive packages including job placement support to assist in their transition.  

We’ve also done what we can to minimize the scale of impact, like launching the VRP and exploring options to reduce our global real estate footprint. On that note, our Providence, Rhode Island office is currently not being used to its full capacity and we’ve decided to exit the space at the end of the lease term in January 2025. Over the next year, we’ll welcome teams from our Providence office to our headquarters down the road in Pawtucket, Rhode Island. It’s an opportunity to reshape how we work and ensure our workspace is vibrant and productive, while reflecting our more flexible in-person cadence since the pandemic.   

Looking ahead 

As Gina often says, cost-cutting is not a strategy. We know this, and that’s why we’ll continue to grow and invest in several areas in 2024.  

As we uncover more cost savings, we’ll invest in new systems, insights and analytics, product development and digital – all while strengthening our leading franchises and ensuring our brands have the essential marketing they need to thrive well into the future.  

We’ll also tap into unlocked potential across our business, like our new supply chain efficiency, our direct-to-consumer capabilities, and key partnerships to maximize licensing opportunities, scale entertainment, and free up our own content dollars to drive new brand development. 

I know there is no sugar-coating how hard this is, particularly for the employees directly affected. We’re grateful to them for their contributions, and we wish them all the best. In the coming weeks, let’s support each other, and lean in to drive through these necessary changes, so we can return our business to growth and carry out Hasbro’s mission.  

Thanks,    

Chris  

–CNBC’s Claudia Johnson contributed to this report.

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Top Wall Street analysts select these dividend stocks to enhance returns

Verizon CEO Hans Vestberg on the floor at the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) in New York, U.S., October 22, 2019.

Brendan McDermid

When markets get choppy, dividends offer investors’ portfolios some cushioning in the form of income.

Dividends provide a great opportunity to enhance investors’ total returns over a long-term horizon. Investors shouldn’t base their stock purchases on dividend yields alone, however: They ought to assess the strength of a company’s fundamentals and analyze the consistency of those payments first. Analysts have insight into those details.

To that effect, here are five attractive dividend stocks, according to Wall Street’s top experts on TipRanks, a platform that ranks analysts based on their past performance.

Verizon Communications

Let us first look at telecommunication giant Verizon (VZ). The stock offers a dividend yield of 8%. Last week, the company declared a quarterly dividend of 66.50 cents per outstanding share, an increase of 1.25 cents from the previous quarter. This marked the 17th consecutive year the company’s board approved a quarterly dividend increase.

Recently, Citi analyst Michael Rollins upgraded Verizon and its rival AT&T (T) to buy from hold. The analyst increased his price target for Verizon stock by $1 to $40, while maintaining AT&T’s price target at $17.

Rollins noted that several headwinds like competition, industry structure, higher rates and concerns about lead-covered cables have affected investor sentiment on telecom companies. That said, he has a more constructive outlook for large cap telecom stocks.

“The wireless competitive environment is showing positive signs of stabilization that should help operating performance,” said Rollins, who ranks No. 298 out of more than 8,500 analysts on TipRanks.

The analyst contended that the recently announced price hikes by Verizon and AT&T indicate a stabilizing competitive backdrop for wireless. He further noted that customers continue to hold onto their phones for longer, which is reducing device upgrade costs and stabilizing churn.

Overall, the analyst sees the possibility of some of the ongoing market concerns fading over the next 12 months. Also, he expects the prospects for improved free cash flow to lower net debt leverage and support the dividend payments. 

Rollins has a success rate of 65% and each of his ratings has returned 13.3%, on average. (See Verizon Hedge Fund Trading Activity on TipRanks)

Medtronic

Medical device company Medtronic (MDT) recently announced a quarterly dividend of $0.69 per share for the second quarter of fiscal 2024, payable on Oct. 13. MDT has increased its annual dividend for 46 consecutive years and has a dividend yield of 3.5%. 

Reacting to MDT’s upbeat fiscal first-quarter results and improved earnings outlook, Stifel analyst Rick Wise explained that continued recovery in elective procedure volumes, supply chain improvements and product launches helped drive revenue outperformance across multiple business units.

The analyst thinks that Medtronic’s guidance indicates that it is now well positioned to more consistently deliver better-than-expected growth and margins. He also expressed optimism about the company’s transformation initiatives under the leadership of CEO Geoff Martha.

“We view Medtronic as a core healthcare holding and total return vehicle in any market environment for investors looking for safety and stability,” said Wise, while raising his price target to $95 from $92 and reaffirming a buy rating.

Wise holds the 729th position among more than 8,500 analysts on TipRanks. Moreover, 58% of his ratings have been profitable, with each generating a return of 6.3%, on average. (See Medtronic Insider Trading Activity on TipRanks)   

Hasbro

Another Stifel analyst, Drew Crum, is bullish on toymaker Hasbro (HAS). He increased the price target for Hasbro to $94 from $79 while maintaining a buy rating, and moved the stock to the Stifel Select List.

Crum acknowledged that HAS stock has been a relative laggard over the past several years due to many fundamental issues that resulted in unhappy investors.

Nevertheless, the analyst is optimistic about the stock and expects higher earnings power and cash flow generation, driven by multiple catalysts like portfolio adjustments, further cost discipline, greater focus on gaming and licensing, as well as a new senior leadership team.

Crum noted that Hasbro grew its dividend for 10 consecutive years (2010-2020) at a compound annual growth rate of over 13%, with the annual payout representing more than 50% of free cash flow, on average. However, any upward adjustments were limited following the Entertainment One acquisition, with only one increase during 2021 to 2023.

The analyst thinks that given the current dividend yield of around 4%, Hasbro’s board might be less inclined to approve an aggressive raise from here. That said, with expectations of higher cash flow generation, Crum said that “the company should have more flexibility around growing its dividend going forward.”

Crum ranks 322nd among more than 8,500 analysts tracked by TipRanks. His ratings have been profitable 59% of the time, with each rating delivering an average return of 12.9%. (See Hasbro Stock Chart on TipRanks)

Dell Technologies

Next up is Dell (DELL), a maker of IT hardware and infrastructure technology, which rallied after its fiscal second-quarter results far exceeded Wall Street’s estimates. The company returned $525 million to shareholders through share repurchases and dividends in that quarter. DELL offers a dividend yield of 2.1%.

Evercore analyst Amit Daryanani maintained a buy rating following the results and raised his price target for DELL stock to $70 from $60. Daryanani ranks No. 249 among more than 8,500 analysts tracked by TipRanks.

The analyst highlighted that Dell delivered impressive upside to July quarter revenue and earnings per share (EPS), driven by broad-based strength across both infrastructure and client segments. Specifically, the notable upside in the infrastructure segment was fueled by GPU-enabled servers.

The analyst also noted that Dell generated $3.2 billion of free cash flow in the quarter and is currently running at over $8 billion free cash flow on a trailing twelve-month basis. This implies that the company has “plenty of dry powder” to significantly enhance its capital allocation program, he added.

“We think the catalysts at DELL are starting to add up in a notable manner ranging from – cap allocation update during their upcoming analyst day, AI centric revenue acceleration and potential S&P 500 inclusion,” said Daryanani.

In all, 60% of his ratings have been profitable, with each generating an average return of 11.5%. (See Dell’s Financial Statements on TipRanks)

Walmart

We finally come to big-box retailer Walmart (WMT), which is a dividend aristocrat. Earlier this year, the company raised its annual dividend for fiscal 2024 by about 2% to $2.28 per share. This marked the 50th consecutive year of dividend increases for the company. WMT’s dividend yield stands at 1.4%.

Following WMT’s upbeat fiscal second-quarter results and upgraded full-year outlook, Baird analyst Peter Benedict highlighted that traffic gains in stores and online channels reflect that consumers are choosing Walmart for a blend of value and convenience.

Benedict also noted that the company’s efforts to drive improved productivity and profitability are gaining traction.

The analyst reiterated a buy rating on WMT and raised the price target to $180 from $165, saying that the new price target “assumes ~23x FY25E EPS, slightly above the stock’s five-year average of ~22x given the company’s defensive sales mix, market share gains, and an improved long-term profit/ROI profile as alternative revenue streams scale.” 

Benedict ranks 94th among more than 8,500 analysts tracked by TipRanks. His ratings have been profitable 68% of the time, with each rating delivering an average return of 13.7%. (See Walmart’s Technical Analysis on TipRanks)  

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