Breaking Chattem's Bond

It wasn't completely unexpected that one-time items last year would lead to difficult comparisons for consumer-products maker Chattem (Nasdaq: CHTT  ) .

A lawsuit settlement boosted earnings per share by $0.29 last year, so that profits of $0.71 a stub this time around actually look good by comparison. Revenue also improved 20% overall. It saw continued growth in its Gold Bond franchise, where sales rose 27%, as well as its Icy Hot business, which saw 23% growth. The latter, though, was hampered by the line of Icy Hot Pro Therapy products, which haven't been able to gain any traction since their launch last year and actually declined year over year.

Also encouraging was the success of the five new products acquired from Johnson & Johnson (NYSE: JNJ  ) -- ACT mouthwash, Cortizone anti-itch cream, Unisom sleep aids, Kaopectate anti-diarrhea product, and diaper-rash reliever Balmex. If you remove them from the mix (and adjust for the disappointing Icy Hot Therapy products), sales were up 11% overall. Chattem's dual strategy of creating products internally as well as acquiring top-shelf brands from others continues to drive revenue growth.

Chattem is looking at increased sales and profits from its new product lineup, and it raised its guidance accordingly. The company says its Gold Bond and topical pain-care brands -- such as Icy Hot and Aspercreme -- have leading market-share positions in their respective categories. It'll be crossing swords with a lot of Johnson & Johnson products, even as it has benefited from J&J's divestiture after J&J made its own acquisitions from Pfizer (NYSE: PFE  ) .

Often, when companies embark on acquisition sprees, they have trouble digesting the new company. Chattem has been able to avoid that, for the most part, by buying products that meld well with its existing lines. The company also hasn't been weighed down with unnecessary debt. While the $425 million in debt it assumed to make the J&J acquisitions gives it about three times more than it had last year at this time, management expects the products to add around 40% with the benefit of higher profit margins.

Chattem also repurchased $39 million worth of stock last year, which more than offset any of the options it doled out, and the share price has risen by more than 58% over the past year. So long as it keeps managing its external acquisitions, while nurturing the organic-growth side of the ledger as it has, shareholders will undoubtedly continue to get that soothing feeling.

Johnson & Johnson is a selection of Motley Fool Income Investor, where a 30-day trial subscription lets you bond with all the recommendations risk-free.

Fool contributor Rich Duprey does not own any of the stocks mentioned in this article. You can see his holdings here. Pfizer is an Inside Value pick. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.


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