Look at some of the world's top household products, and one name undoubtedly stands out: Procter & Gamble (NYSE:PG). Its history dates back to 1837 as a partnership between a purveyor of candles and a purveyor of soaps. Over the years, Procter & Gamble has become internationally known as a top supplier of consumer products, and can now be found in more than 180 countries.
The very recognizable brands under its control can be found in pretty much every pantry, bathroom, laundry room or nursery around the globe: Tide, Dawn, Iams, Charmin, Gillette, Pantene, Pampers and so on.
For 175 years, the company has dominated the consumer marketplace with the simple philosophy of making customer's lives a little better each day. This attitude has even spread to noticeable charitable, philanthropic and sustainable projects as well, such as efforts into researching alternative power, reducing waste and promoting social responsibility.
However, in recent years the Procter & Gamble brand has taken some hits. It removed CEO Bob McDonald last spring and brought back former CEO A.G. Lafley, who promptly announced plans to streamline operations and refocus efforts, which led to cutting of 7,000 employees.
While 2013's second quarter earnings beat some industry expectations, these expectations weren't exactly super high to start with. The recent economic downturn has also driven many households to cut back on their spending or at least seek off-brand items instead.
Some uncertainty is certainly present, but is it worth dumping your Procter & Gamble stock this second? Some experts, including the Wall Street Journal, recommend riding things out awhile longer to see if a turnaround will be coming in the near term. Other watchers, like Fortune suggests, are crossing their fingers that there aren't too many more "transition years" on the horizon.
A realistic analysis of Procter & Gamble should include these positives:
---Earnings: Second-quarter earnings, released in late July, showed net sales up 1 percent for the year to $84.2 billion. The quarter's totals were $20.7 billion which solidly beat the expectation of $20.5 billion. Core earnings per share were up 5 percent per share, at .79, beating the forecast of .77. The improved earnings report drove its stock price up 1 percent for the day, briefly to $82.24, which was close to $82.54 high mark set in April 2013. It also posted some impressive gains in the last year, climbing nicely from its 52-week low of $63.25 in August 2012.
---Timeless product: A buy recommendation in Investopedia in 2010 pointed out one of Procter & Gamble's advantages then remains true today: it's steady. While flashy tech stocks may come and go, Americans will always want and need household staples like soap, shampoo and diapers. Ivory Soap, one of its first brands, continues to sell.
---Popular partnerships: Its NYSE profile reports that Procter & Gamble's largest customer is Wal-Mart (NYSE:WMT), a retailer which shows no signs of stopping its domestic and international growth. Sales to these stores and affiliates represent 14 percent of the company's entire revenue, as of June 2012.
---Planning ahead: The Wall Street Journal reports that CEO Lafley is already looking ahead to the future. While he doesn't predict significant gains in the near future, he has announced that he expects to realistically see sales increase up 3 to 4 percent in 2014.
Cautious investors should also keep these possible warnings in mind:
---Still Untested: In some ways, the company is starting out fresh, which may work to its disadvantage especially when so many forces are at play. In June 2012, it was re-organized into two Global Business Units: Grooming + Household Care and Beauty.
---Same leadership: Though CEO A.G. Lafley has already taken bold action, and has moved again from a board position to top executive, he still has been part of the company's culture for years, even its head until he stepped down 2009. While the company and stockholders are counting on him to oversee a turn-around, his past performance makes things a challenge - he previously oversaw price increases on several products, and really has been an essential part of the culture that he is now aiming to change.
---Competition: Unilever and Colgate-Palmolive are continuing to gain market share, and are also seeing the same sort of slow, steady rise that Procter & Gamble is known for.