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4 Key Takeaways From Procter & Gamble's Earnings Call

By Joe Tenebruso – Updated Nov 6, 2018 at 4:16PM

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The consumer goods titan delivered its best sales growth in years during the first quarter, but significant risks remain.

Procter & Gamble's (PG -2.10%) strong first-quarter results delighted investors, and its stock is once again trading near all-time highs. CFO Jon Moeller highlighted some key drivers of the consumer goods giant's success during its earnings call -- along with some risks that should not be overlooked by investors. Here are the key points long-term shareholders will want to know. 

Taking back market share

We are accelerating organic sales growth, driven by strong volume and consumption growth, with market shares improving and now growing on an aggregate basis.

-- Moeller

Procter & Gamble's organic sales growth -- which excludes the impact of acquisitions and divestitures -- checked in at an impressive 4% on a currency-neutral basis, a multiyear high. The growth was broad-based, with nine of P&G's 10 global categories delivering higher sales in the first quarter. 

Better still, Procter & Gamble is beginning to claw back market share lost in previous years to the competition. Thirty-three of the company's top 50 market segments maintained or increased share. That's up from 26 in fiscal 2018, 23 in 2017, and 17 in 2016. The trend is certainly positive, and Procter & Gamble grew its market share by 40 basis points on an overall basis in the first quarter. 

A person drawing a chart that rises, then falls, then rises again.

Procter & Gamble's market share is trending up once again. Image source: Getty Images.

Yet competition remains intense

We're growing all-outlet volume share on a past one-month, three-month, six-month and 12-month basis. But we are going to continue to face challenges from value-tier competition in-store and online in several markets.

-- Moeller

Procter & Gamble's sales gains come despite fierce competition from an array of rivals. E-commerce is making it easier for smaller brands to circumvent P&G's in-store shelf-space dominance. Retailers are expanding their own private-label lines, which tend to generate higher margins than national brands. And online juggernaut is also stepping up its private-label push, putting even more pressure on P&G in areas such as diapers and detergents.

Yet even as private-label brands gained 40 basis points of market share in aggregate in the first quarter, Procter & Gamble also saw its share rise. Moeller explained during the call that while an increase in private-label goods leads to fewer branded goods being sold overall, it's "very rare" that the No.1 or No. 2 brands are the ones that lose share. This is an example of how P&G's brand leadership helps provide an important layer of protection from the competition. 

Rising costs are an additional challenge 

Commodity costs are expected to be a $400 million headwind. Crude oil, a key feedstock for many raw materials, is up more than 50% from this time last year. Trucking costs will likely be up 25% or more versus last year's inflated levels. Combined FX and commodities are now a $1.3 billion after-tax or $0.50-per-share headwind versus last fiscal [year].

-- Moeller

In addition to competitive pressures, Procter & Gamble is battling significantly higher production costs. The combination of higher commodity prices and negative foreign exchange movements is expected to dent P&G's earnings by as much as $1.3 billion in fiscal 2019 -- and potentially even more, if conditions worsen -- compared to the year-ago period. 

In order to protect its margins, Procter & Gamble is raising prices on many of its products. The company also continues to make progress with its productivity program; management expects P&G to deliver as much as $1.6 billion in cost savings this year. 

Investors should monitor the impact of P&G's price hikes in the coming quarters. While they could help to boost its margins, higher prices could also negatively impact sales volumes and reverse P&G's recent gains. Management's ability to achieve its cost-cutting goal will also go a long way toward determining Procter & Gamble's future profitability.

Investors can expect bountiful capital returns in fiscal 2019 -- and beyond

We expect to pay over $7 billion in dividends and repurchase shares worth up to $5 billion.

-- Moeller

One thing P&G shareholders can count on is hefty capital returns. With its robust cash flow production, P&G is able to fund its operations, acquire new businesses, and still reward investors with stock buybacks and a steadily rising dividend stream. The consumer goods titan has paid a dividend for more than a century, including 62 straight years of annual increases. That's a streak investors can expect to continue in the years ahead.

John Mackey, CEO of Whole Foods Market, an Amazon subsidiary, is a member of The Motley Fool's board of directors. Joe Tenebruso has no position in any of the stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool owns shares of and recommends Amazon. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.

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