Is Kimberly-Clark Earnings Growth Slowing?

Kimberly-Clark (NYSE: KMB  ) will release its quarterly report next Monday, and early expectations are for the consumer-products giant to produce reasonable growth. But given the recent declines in its stock, can Kimberly-Clark earnings grow fast enough to make investors happy?

Kimberly-Clark isn't the largest company in the consumer-products space, but it has done a good job of taking advantage of the opportunities in emerging markets, seeking to come out with innovative products that appeal to a wide variety of people around the world. Yet, as the global economy has slowed, and emerging markets in particular have gone through some growing pains, the possibility exists that the company won't be able to keep up with its share valuation. Let's take an early look at what's been happening with Kimberly-Clark over the past quarter, and what we're likely to see in its quarterly report.

Stats on Kimberly-Clark

Analyst EPS Estimate

$1.39

Change From Year-Ago EPS

6.9%

Revenue Estimate

$5.34 billion

Change From Year-Ago Revenue

1.3%

Earnings Beats in Past 4 Quarters

4

Source: Yahoo! Finance.

Can Kimberly-Clark earnings growth accelerate this quarter?
In recent months, analysts have raised their earnings views on Kimberly-Clark, boosting June-quarter estimates by a $0.01 per share, but giving a larger $0.12 per share increase on their full-year 2013 calls. The stock, though, has gone nowhere, dropping about 1% since mid-April.

Earlier in the quarter, Kimberly-Clark had gained substantial ground, hitting new all-time highs right after releasing its first-quarter earnings report. The company posted record adjusted earnings, and boosted its outlook for the full year, pushing its expected earnings range up $0.10 per share. Moves to exit some of its lower-margin businesses in Europe helped pay off, even though the company's revenue growth didn't quite meet expectations.

But despite Kimberly-Clark's success in finding growth around the world, it certainly faces bitter competition. Procter & Gamble (NYSE: PG  ) has faced substantial challenges in recent years, but with new CEO A.G. Lafley taking over leadership of the company, P&G now expects to take advantage of opportunities in Africa to cut costs and boost its worldwide presence even further, with investments in manufacturing in the continent. Meanwhile, Unilever (NYSE: UL  ) has seen its stock drop considerably lately, despite having its own well-known brands, and a different perspective on international markets than its U.S.-based competitors, as it gets more than half of its revenue from emerging markets, and expects that proportion to rise to 70% by 2020.

The biggest challenge for Kimberly-Clark and the whole industry is that earnings multiples are particularly high right now, as nervous investors seem willing to pay up for the lucrative dividend yields and implied safety of consumer-products companies. Yet, unless growth reignites at a faster pace than we've seen lately, it'll be hard for Kimberly-Clark earnings to rise fast enough to justify P/E ratios above 20.

In Kimberly-Clark's earnings report, look to see how the company's increased research-and-development efforts are paying off in terms of new products. Spending money on innovation can be rewarding in helping a company differentiate itself from its peers, and smart investments could produce greater earnings growth to help shares climb further in the future.

Kimberly-Clark is just one example of the many companies that are profiting from our increasingly global economy. Find some other promising candidates in The Motley Fool's free report, "3 American Companies Set to Dominate the World." The report can be yours right now; just click here to get your free copy before it's gone.

Click here to add Kimberly-Clark to My Watchlist, which can find all of our Foolish analysis on it and all your other stocks.


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