Will Procter & Gamble Top the Dow in 2013?

As December comes to a close, 2013 is just around the corner, and it's a good time to look at the future prospects for the stocks you own. If you don't know where a company's headed in the next year and beyond, then it's impossible to make an informed decision about whether you should add the stock to your portfolio -- or sell it if you already own it.

Today, I'll look at Procter & Gamble (NYSE: PG  ) . Procter & Gamble has been a member of the Dow Jones Industrials (DJINDICES: ^DJI  ) since 1932, but it's been under fire during 2012 despite posting a modest but reasonable gain as it has had to deal with sluggish business conditions and some miscues in execution. Can P&G get back on track next year? Below, you'll see more about Procter & Gamble's prospects for 2013.

Stats on Procter & Gamble

Average stock target price

$74.79

Fiscal 2013 EPS estimate

$3.96

Fiscal 2014 EPS estimate

$4.30

Fiscal 2013 sales growth estimate

0.7%

Fiscal 2014 sales growth estimate

3.9%

Forward P/E

15.9

Source: Yahoo! Finance.

Will Procter & Gamble go on the offensive in 2013?
Analysts aren't expecting a huge amount from P&G next year, with gains based on target prices expected to be in the mid- to upper-single-digit percentages. That looks like a reasonably cautious view, with at least some concern about the stock's somewhat-rich valuation.

Perhaps the biggest issue that P&G will have to try to resolve in 2013 is the ongoing fight with activist investor Bill Ackman and his Pershing Square fund. Ackman took a 1% stake earlier this year and has been calling for the ouster of CEO Robert McDonald in an attempt to boost cost-cutting and reinvigorate innovation. But so far, P&G has been slow to take action, even though it has argued that it's focused on a turnaround plan and open to comments from investors.

But P&G faces other challenges as well. Competitors Unilever (NYSE: UL  ) and Kimberly-Clark (NYSE: KMB  ) have had to deal with many of the same industry headwinds that Procter & Gamble has, including high commodity costs and weak economies in developed markets around the world. Colgate-Palmolive (NYSE: CL  ) has chosen to address the woes by cutting back on its workforce, announcing in October it would lay off 2,300 workers, or about 6% of its 38,600 total employees, over the next four years.

With dozens of billion-dollar brands, Procter & Gamble still has a commanding presence over the world market for consumer goods. But it can't afford to coast on its past track record if it wants to stay on top of its industry. With a relatively high price-to-earnings ratio for a stock that's traditionally seen as a defensive play rather than a high-growth prospect, Procter & Gamble isn't in the best position to post top-notch gains in 2013.

Find the best stock for your portfolio
Procter & Gamble has long-term potential, but it's never going to top the charts in any given year. If you're looking for a stock with immediate potential, check out what the Motley Fool's chief investment officer selected as his No. 1 stock for the next year. Find out all about it in our brand-new free report: "The Motley Fool's Top Stock for 2013." It's yours free, but only for a limited time, so click here and find out the name of this under-the-radar company today!

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