Colgate-Palmolive Smiles Amid the Turmoil

You'd be hard pressed to find evidence of a worldwide recession in Colgate-Palmolive's (NYSE: CL  ) fiscal 2009 third-quarter results. Let me count the ways the company's recent results mirror pre-recession trends.

Colgate-Palmolive Results -- fiscal 2009
% Change vs. Prior Year

3rd Quarter

9 Months

Worldwide Sales

13.0%

14.9%

Case Volume

3.0%

4.5%

Gross Profit

11.2%

14.0%

SG&A Expense

10.2%

13.6%

Operating Profit

10.9%

13.0%

EPS

15.1%

16.2%

All results excluding unusual items in both periods.

It's extraordinary that the company has been able to maintain (virtually) the same momentum it had earlier in the year. Case volume may be slowing a tad, but it's sure nowhere near the case volume declines we've seen recently from Kraft Foods (NYSE: KFT  ) and Kimberly-Clark (NYSE: KMB  ) . Colgate-Palmolive reported global market share gains in oral care products, bar soap, dish liquids, and shampoo this quarter.

Gross margin slipped a bit this quarter, as price increases did not fully cover input cost increases. But the company covered this with tighter expense control, and it was encouraging to hear on the earnings call that recent oil price declines will translate into margin rate gains next year, a case I've been making for all the consumer products giants.  

Colgate has been near the top of my list of favorite consumer products companies for more than a year now. The company's performance this quarter just reinforces this view, along with management's reiterating that double-digit earnings growth is in the cards for 2009.

At a P/E ratio of 18.8 times trailing-12-month earnings, it's hard to describe Colgate as a screaming value. On the other hand, the stock is more than 20% off its September highs. You might consider putting this one on your list of stocks to buy on dips. I expect that with current market volatility, there will be plenty of opportunities in the next few months to stock up on best-in-class consumer-products companies like Colgate, Procter & Gamble (NYSE: PG  ) , and Coca-Cola (NYSE: KO  ) .    

Related Foolishness:

Coca-Cola is a Motley Fool Inside Value selection. Kraft and Kimberly-Clark are Income Investor selections. Check out either service free for 30 days.

Fool contributor Timothy M. Otte surveys the retail scene from Dallas. He welcomes comments on his articles, and owns shares of Kraft, but none of the other companies mentioned in this article. The Fool has a disclosure policy.


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