CHICAGO (Reuters) - Procter & Gamble Co is likely to miss Wall Street earnings estimates this quarter as it has not yet pushed through all its price increases that are meant to help deal with higher commodity costs.
Sluggish economies in major markets such as the United States also weighed on the company.
The world’s largest household products maker posted a bigger-than-expected rise in fourth-quarter profit on Friday, aided by cost cuts, some early price increases and, analysts said, a better-than-anticipated tax rate.
P&G’s initial wide forecast for fiscal 2012 suggests this year’s profit could meet expectations, though the company sees commodity costs weighing on results this quarter.
Shares of P&G, whose lineup includes Gillette razors and Olay skin creams, were up slightly at $60.12 after the results and data from the U.S. Labor Department showed that private employers stepped up hiring in July.
Analysts said parts of the quarterly report were of poor quality, such as gross margin down 1.2 percentage points.
“Overall, we find the result disappointing, albeit unsurprising,” said Stifel Nicolaus analyst Mark Astrachan, “given macro uncertainty and continued weak consumer spending in developed markets.”
Consumers are still buying the company’s products, although sales are better in developing markets, where P&G sells more of its lower-priced items.
That is likely to continue to be the case in the near term.
“We’ve not seen dramatic changes in consumer behavior over the last few months,” said Chief Executive Officer Bob McDonald.
Shares of P&G and other major consumer products companies are often seen as safe havens. Lately, however, the stock has underperformed the market. P&G shares fell 7.3 percent from the beginning of the year through Thursday’s broad market sell-off. The Standard & Poor’s 500 index was down just 4.6 percent over the same period.
P&G has been raising prices to help offset the increase in costs for oil-based materials and other goods. It already announced or implemented price increases on brands that account for about 60 percent of its U.S. sales so far this calendar year, said McDonald.
P&G has also pulled back on some promotional spending as other household products makers have been doing, he added. That also has the effect of raising prices for consumers.
P&G, the world’s largest advertiser, will keep spending on marketing and research and development as it tries to entice shoppers to buy higher-priced products such as Crest 3D White toothpaste and Fusion ProGlide razors.
P&G spent $9.3 billion, or 11.3 percent of sales, on advertising in fiscal 2011. That is more than the annual revenue of competitors such as Church & Dwight Co Inc, Clorox Co or Estee Lauder Cos Inc.
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While P&G is seeing growth in emerging markets such as China, they are still smaller markets for the company, which got just 24 percent of 2010 sales from Asia and Latin America.
The United States is by far the company’s largest market, accounting for 38 percent of total sales in 2010, the latest year for which such geographic data is available.
The average customer in China spends less than $3 a year on P&G’s products, while in the United States the average is nearly $100, McDonald said.
On Thursday, P&G rival Unilever registered strong sales helped by price increases and growth in emerging markets.
P&G expects sales and earnings to be stronger in the second half of the year than the first half. Overall, the company expects to spend roughly $1.8 billion to $2 billion more on commodities this year, on top of the $1.8 billion increase it saw in fiscal 2011, said Chief Financial Officer Jon Moeller.
For the first quarter ending in September, P&G forecast earnings per share of $1.00 to $1.04 from continuing operations, with organic sales up 2 percent to 4 percent.
For the fiscal year, P&G said it expected earnings per share of $4.17 to $4.33 from continuing operations, with organic sales up 3 percent to 6 percent.
Analysts were expecting earnings of $1.14 this quarter and $4.26 this year, according to Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S.
P&G earned $2.51 billion, or 84 cents per share, in the fourth quarter ended in June, compared with $2.19 billion, or 71 cents per share, a year earlier.
Analysts expected earnings of 82 cents per share.
Sales rose 10 percent to $20.86 billion, while analysts had forecast $20.63 billion.
Organic sales, which strip out the impact of acquisitions, divestitures and foreign exchange fluctuations, rose 5 percent. About 1 percentage point of that growth probably came from retailers buying products ahead of price increases, Moeller said. The volume of goods sold rose 3 percent.
Reporting by Jessica Wohl; Editing by Lisa Von Ahn, Phil Berlowitz