From JC Penney (NYSE:JCP) to Hewlett-Packard (NYSE:HPQ), we've seen it repeatedly: a newly appointed Chief Executive Officer hasn't even gotten their seat warm and traders bid the stock up to the point of madness, in anticipation of all the wonderful things they are going to do from day one.
Change though -- if it ever comes -- tends to take a while. Most of those "CEO Trades" malfunction, big time.
But we're seeing the opposite effect with Procter & Gamble (NYSE:PG) today. Procter is down, even though we've learned that they might at long last be on the prowl for a new CEO. Last week, we learned that Bill Ackman, the activist investor, grabbed a stake. Today, Bloomberg reported that he might already be agitating for a change.
In response, the stock should by no means be up. Even if Apple's (NASDAQ:AAPL) Steve Jobs were reincarnated and wanted to peddle Pampers, he'd have his work cut out for him here. But the fact that they are trying to lose CEO Robert McDonald is good news. The stock should at bare minimum be flat.
Procter & Gamble, long a consumer product stalwart, has turned into a substandard and defenseless little mess in recent years, letting competition like Colgate (NYSE:CL) and Unilever (NYSE:UL) put out their big lights. Last quarter, for example, Procter's sales were up 3%. Colgate beat them be a factor for more than two; Unilever by almost three. As for stock performance: fugghedaboutit.
Worse: for Procter, giving accurate estimates about their business seems to be as difficult as catching a moonbeam in a jar. They have had to cut numbers three times this year. That's a daring display of incompetence that reflects horribly on management. Either management has adopted the ostrich strategy toward dealing with troubles (bury your head in the sand), or they are turning less than forthright, telling the truth about how badly business is going slowly. Or they are merely broadsided by the changes in their business.
In any case, it's horrible and means that McDonald has put in a miserable performance that has permanently broken his credibility.
The sooner he is gone, the better.
Disclosure: I have no positions in any stocks mentioned, and no plans to initiate any positions within the next 72 hours.