Despite continuing to show signs of COVID-19's economic fallout, The Estee Lauder Companies (NYSE:EL) revealed a much stronger-than-expected performance with its fiscal first-quarter 2021 earnings report Monday morning. Investors responded by bidding shares up in early trading.

The company's adjusted earnings per share (EPS), at $1.44, delivered a sizzling 60% positive surprise above Wall Street analyst consensus, which expected a sluggish $0.90 per share, according to Zacks Equity Research. Its revenue figure, $3.56 billion, also beat projections, though only by 2.15%.

A depiction of a recovering business chart after COVID-19, surrounded by a calculator, notepad, keyboard, and other desktop items.

Image source: Getty Images.

Though revenue (net sales) still fell year over year, it was only down 9% from fiscal Q1 2020's $3.9 billion. The EPS recovery is perhaps even more striking compared to last quarter, when the $0.53 loss per share amounted to a 178.95% negative surprise.

In its earnings report, Estee Lauder highlighted the Asia-Pacific region as its best area for sales, with all outlets open during the quarter. Asia-Pacific net sales grew 9% year over year, but net sales fell 8% in Europe and 25% in the Americas. Breaking down the company's segments, Estee Lauder reported skincare net sales soaring 10% year over year, hair care flat, and fragrance and makeup falling 12% and 32%, respectively.

The current trajectory of COVID-19 suggests Estee Lauder might be fairly well positioned to ride out a "second wave" of the pandemic. While cases are rising sharply in Europe and the United States, Bloomberg reporting suggests public health policy in Asia is keeping the virus largely under control, with South Korea and Vietnam reporting just 1% positives among COVID-19 tests compared to 10% in Spain and France. Today's earnings report suggests Estee Lauder can deliver solid results as long as Asia-Pacific sales remain strong.

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