Rubbermaid's Having a Party of Its Own

Plastic may sound boring, but Newell Rubbermaid's (NYSE: NWL  ) third quarter was anything but. Between improvements in earnings and a raised outlook, investors won't be able to seal up their enthusiasm.

The top line grew by more than 6% from last year, with revenue coming in at nearly $1.7 billion. On a reported basis, earnings from continuing operations grew a whopping 49% to $0.61 per diluted share. Adjusting for restructuring charges, earnings from continuing operations increased 43% to $0.66 per diluted share. And then we have normalized earnings growth, which takes out charges and tax items -- this number becomes $0.52 per diluted share, and it represents appreciation of 27%.

As can be seen, this is a no-matter-how-you-slice-it situation -- simply put, Rubbermaid delivered the goods. Its efforts at creating a leaner operating environment for its business appear to be bearing some fruit.

The gross profit margin increased during the quarter, and Rubbermaid expects a nice expansion of the metric for the entire fiscal year with the help of its Project Acceleration. This is key to driving overall performance, and the improvement is impressive, as many companies like Tupperware (NYSE: TUP  ) , Avery Dennison (NYSE: AVY  ) , Kimberly-Clark (NYSE: KMB  ) , and Procter & Gamble (NYSE: PG  ) are trying to keep commodity costs from getting the best of them.

The current uncertainty in the marketplace, stemming from the scary subprime mess (as well as the possibility of a recession), is putting a spotlight on dividend-paying stocks. I think Rubbermaid's stronger earnings position will make it increasingly attractive to investors seeking shelter from the storm.

I think Rubbermaid's management turned in an excellent quarter for its investors, and you've got to like the 3% yield on the stock. One thing to mention about the dividend -- it's been stagnant. As I noted previously, it hasn't been hiked in a long time. Even though I do expect Rubbermaid to increase it at some point, I concede that this is the big negative to the story, especially for dividend fans (of which I am one).

Nevertheless, you have to pay attention to Rubbermaid and its yield. It had a good quarter, it's got some cool brands in its portfolio, and it does look better-positioned for the long term. Tupperware parties may be fun, but so are the Rubbermaid ones.

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