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Media Analysis Report

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On Feb. 15, 2024, Oatly Group AB, the well-known oat drink company, released its financial report for the fourth quarter and full year ended on Dec. 31, 2023. In its report, Oatly highlighted that the company experienced positive revenue growth in both the retail and food service channels. Compared to the prior year, the fourth quarter’s revenue increased by 4.6%, constant currency revenue increased by 2.5%, and gross margin increased by 7.5%. Oatly’s CEO, Jean-Christophe Flatin, expressed his confidence in the company’s future performance, stating, “I am proud of the progress that we made throughout 2023. It was a pivotal year where we executed a significant recalibration of the entire organization to stabilize our business and ensure we are properly positioned for long-term growth” (Flatin, 2024).

However, although Flatin was satisfied with Oatly’s performance in 2023 and confident about 2024, there is concern among the public following the release of the earnings report. Many reporters have published articles across different media outlets to share their opinions about Oatly, and most of these media coverages are not optimistic about Oatly’s future.

On The Motley Fool website, journalist Jeremy Bowman reported that Oatly’s stock kept decreasing after the release of its fourth-quarter earnings report because investors were disappointed with Oatly’s performance. One point that has dissatisfied investors is Oatly’s revenue growth. Although Oatly’s revenue increased by 4.6% to $204.1 million, the results are not good enough for regions. As we know, Asia is a significant market for brands, but Oatly’s revenue in Asia decreased by 18.9%, which means Oatly is losing competitiveness in a promising market. The reason why Oatly could still increase its revenue in the fourth quarter is because it performed stably with 17% revenue growth in EMEA, its biggest region. When it comes to the question: Could Oatly turn it around? Bowman believed that through its early performance and financial report, Oatly was struggling to recover, and it could be difficult for the company to gain investors’ trust.

On the MarketWatch website, journalist Ciara Linnane also expressed concerns about Oatly’s stock situation. She reported that the company’s stock price dropped by 10% after it released the net loss number, which increased from $125.2 million to $298.7. Besides, Linnane indicated that Oatly’s valuation had declined incredibly, from $10 billion to $800.8 million. It’s clear that Linnane believed Oatly was in a bad situation as it not only continued to lose money but also was losing support from investors. Moreover, the professional financial analyst Arun Sundaram tried to remain neutral but still expressed his concerns that the numbers were ‘solid,’ but the sales overlook was overshadowed by the EBITDA loss (Sundaram, 2024).

Similarly, on the JustFood website, journalist Simon Harvey also believed that Oatly was still struggling with its financial red flag, and he mentioned Oatly’s decision-making as one reason. Harvey pointed out Oatly’s asset-light strategy, which was released with Oatly’s third-quarter financial report. According to Oatly, this strategy shifting aimed to increase operational focus, reduce complexity, and cut down on the need for capital expenditure (Oatly, 2023). However, the results didn’t reach Oatly’s expectations. In the fourth-quarter financial report, Oatly listed “non-cash asset impairment charges of $172.6 million and other costs of $29 million related to discontinued construction of certain production facilities” (Oatly, 2024).

Compared with the other three media outlets, the journalist of The Green Queen, Anay Mridul, seems more optimistic about Oatly’s performance. While Mridul acknowledged Oatly’s stock slide, declining revenue in Asia, and the failed asset-light strategy, he saw these issues from a more positive perspective. For example, regarding declining revenue in Asia, Mridul believed that the decline was unavoidable because the post-Covid recovery was slow in Asia, which made Oatly lose its market share to other solid domestic competitors in the competitive Asia market. Besides, Mridul also mentioned that although Oatly had increased expenses due to the discontinued construction of three production facilities, the company still had over 202% more cash left after all expenditures, which was still a substantial advantage for the company’s growth. Hence, it’s clear that this media coverage was more confident with Oatly’s future development.

Another positive media coverage came from Supply Chain Dive, where journalist Kat Magill expressed strong confidence in Oatly’s decision-making and prospects. Unlike Harvey from Just Food, Magill thought Oatly’s decision to cancel factory plans and reduce SKUs in Asia was beneficial for the company as Oatly’s profit margin reached 23.4%, about half of the company’s long-term goal. Moreover, according to the call between Magill and Daniel Ordonez, Oatly’s COO said, “The sales teams have been given the direction to continue to build the business with our core channels, geographies, and SKUs, so our business is strong, profitable and sustainable”(Ordonez, 2024). Thus, this media coverage is more likely to show positive performance about Oatly and build the public’s confidence in it. A professional analyst from Stock Titan also held positive thoughts on Oatly, “The full year 2024 outlook projecting constant currency revenue growth of 5% to 10% offers a glimpse into management’s confidence in the company’s growth trajectory. The improvement in working capital and reduction in cash used in operation activities year-over-year is a positive sign of improved liquidity management” (Stock Titan, 2024).

After examining the above five news articles, we can realize that although several news outlets expressed their optimistic attitudes to Oatly’s future, the majority of media’s attitudes toward Oatly’s 2023 performance still tend to be negative, which could be impactful to the public’s perception towards Oatly. Hence, at this period, it’s crucial for Oatly to refrain from being swayed by negative public opinion and to stay focused on its strategies and financial management.

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