Procter & Gamble & Lose

FMCG magnate Procter & Gamble (NYSE: PG  ) shed nearly 4% of its value on Tuesday, despite beating consensus earnings estimates handily and eking out a win over sales forecasts as well. And people call this an efficient market?

So they say...
Market pundits like to argue that the market is forward-looking, that investors aren't nearly so concerned with how a company did in the quarter it's actually reporting on. More often, they skip right past the facts and go straight to the conjecture -- management's educated guesses about what the future might hold. Problem is, while several mainstream journalists have tried to argue that P&G disappointed in its outlook and that this explains the stock's sell-off, it didn't ... and it doesn't.

Dust off that crystal ball
First things first. In its fiscal Q1 2008 report, P&G beat estimates by earning $0.92 per share on $20.2 billion in sales. A one-time tax credit contributed $0.02 to the earnings, but even without it, the megabrand would still have beat by the proverbial penny (a concept in vogue back in the go-go '90s).

The quarter's performance inspired CEO A.G. Lafley to pronounce the new fiscal year "off to a good start," and raise full-year estimates to include the $0.02 tax credit windfall. Result: Management now expects 6% to 8% sales growth this year. Working off last year's numbers, this puts sales somewhere between $81.06 billion and $82.59 billion -- comfortably bracketing analysts' prediction of $81.37 billion. On these sales, management aims to earn $3.46 to $3.49 per share in profits -- again, right around the $3.47 that Wall Street wants to see.

So where's the disappointing guidance?
Sorry, guys, I just don't see it. Even ultra-short-term-focused publications like Reuters and TheStreet.com can't seriously be upset with these numbers. Like the annual guidance, the Q2 guidance was right on the money: about $21.10 billion in sales, and perhaps $0.96 per share in profits.

Foolish takeaway
Mind you, I still think this company's shares are overpriced at the new P/E of 23, considering competitors like Kraft (NYSE: KFT  ) , Johnson & Johnson (NYSE: JNJ  ) , and Kimberly Clark (NYSE: KMB  ) are selling at 19, 18.3, and 17.3 times trailing-12-month earnings, respectively. And I can't help but notice that the firm's $2.69 billion in free cash flow was up only 13% year over year, vs. GAAP net profits per share that grew 16%. Both of these are fine reasons for selling the stock, but a guidance miss? Sorry. Didn't happen.

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