Things are looking up for the world's leading consumer staples company. Procter & Gamble (NYSE:PG) this week posted broadly positive earnings results that included some of its strongest sales growth in years.
CEO David Taylor and his executive team said that this success is largely due to the growth initiatives they've been executing in areas like innovation, packaging, and marketing. That's a key reason they're gaining confidence that they'll hit or exceed their full-year targets.
Plenty of challenges remain, though, and management outlined a few of the biggest ones in a conference call with investors. Here are the highlights from that presentation.
Hitting the target
We delivered strong organic sales growth quarter, putting us ahead of fiscal-year targets. -- CFO Jon Moeller
Sales growth clocked in at 4% to match the market-thumping pace P&G managed in the prior quarter and edge past the 3% uptick that peer Kimberly Clark reported on the same day. That translated into market share gains overall, with each of P&G's top geographic markets expanding, but especially strong growth showing up in China, India, and Japan.
Eight of the company's 10 major product niches grew, led by skin care, fabric care, and feminine care. "We're making solid progress on extending our margin of advantage and increasing the quality of our execution," Moeller said, "which shows in our results."
Room for improvement
Within this strong sequential and absolute progress, we continue to have some challenges. -- Moeller
The grooming product segment, home to the Gillette franchise, was the only niche that turned in slightly disappointing growth results for the period. After supporting growth with a 4% boost in the prior quarter, the division shrank by 3% this time around. Executives chalked up the slowdown to routine volatility and said they're hopeful that new product introductions, including a skin guard brand launching in the coming months, will help return the division to steady growth.
Competition may attempt to take advantage of our moves for short-term market share gains. -- Moeller
Management estimates that rising commodity costs will have a $400 million impact on the business for the full year, while foreign exchange swings and higher transportation hurt earnings by around $1 billion. In response to the cost spike, P&G is raising many of its prices.
That move always risks turning consumers off to the brand or opening the door to rivals aiming to steal market share. That's why the company is aiming for a measured, flexible approach to the price increases. Still, investors can expect to see volatility in P&G's sales volumes over the next few quarters.
Raising the outlook
Our efforts and results fiscal year to date and the totality of these tailwinds and headwinds leave us comfortable increasing our organic sales guidance. -- Moeller
P&G affirmed its earnings outlook but moved its sales guidance just a tad higher. For fiscal 2019, the company's target growth range now stands at between 2% and 4% rather than between 2% and 3%.
Investors have only seen the company boost its annual forecast one other time in the last few years, and that resulted in a disappointing walk back just a few months later. That history might help explain why management is being cautious with their predictions right now.
In any case, P&G appears set to post a significant growth acceleration in 2019 while it raises prices across most of its portfolio. Management was careful to stress that these wins aren't guaranteed. But the company's last six months of operating trends put P&G in a good position to finally break out of its multiyear market share funk.