It has been less than three months since Kimberly-Clark (KMB 0.04%) issued its first official 2022 outlook, but that forecast could already be due for a big revision. The consumer products giant, which owns such major global brands as Kleenex and Huggies, likely endured soaring costs even as consumers became more price-conscious through the first few months of the year.
Kimberly-Clark entered the fiscal first-quarter period with weaker sales and earnings momentum than rival Procter & Gamble (PG -0.89%). Investors will be judging its latest results against P&G's, especially as the two companies update their forecasts the rest of calendar 2022.
With that big picture in mind, let's look at the metrics worth watching when Kimberly-Clark posts its earnings on Friday, April 22.
Market share trends
The raw sales numbers have become less useful lately due to currency exchange shifts and all the volatility around demand swings tied to the pandemic. But they're still helpful to judge how well Kimberly-Clark is doing compared to expectations.
On that score, most investors who follow the stock are looking for revenue to rise to $4.9 billion from $4.7 billion a year ago. Organic sales growth should be modestly positive, and likely a bit slower than the 3% boost the company reported back in late January.
Beneath the headline revenue number, watch for updates on market share. Kimberly-Clark has been struggling here compared to P&G, and that gap likely grew in Q1 as consumers became more focused on prices. Negative sales volumes will be a sign that its competitive position is still slipping.
Expectations are also muted around Kimberly-Clark's earnings performance. While the company has done a decent job at cutting costs and passing along some price increases, it isn't nearly as efficient as Procter & Gamble.
The operating profit margin is nearly 10 full percentage points lower than P&G's, and that difference might expand again in Q1 thanks to supply-chain pressures. Still, Kimberly-Clark likely generated plenty of cash in the period to make steady investments into the business while still paying shareholders through stock buybacks and a rising dividend. For context, P&G just raised its dividend by about 5% while Kimberly-Clark's payout edged up by just 2% for 2022.
The new outlook
The big question heading into Friday is whether Kimberly-Clark will reduce its 2022 outlook. That forecast now calls for organic sales to rise by between 3% and 4% to mark a solid rebound compared to last year's 1% decline.
P&G is aiming for faster gains with sales growing between 4% and 5% this fiscal year. The industry leader's outlook might also shift as it reports its results just two days before Kimberly-Clark's update.
Investors are worried that Kimberly-Clark's business might be hit harder by the current, tough operating environment that's forcing consumer products giants to raise prices even as sales growth slows compared to earlier phases of the pandemic.
P&G, thanks to its bigger global footprint and focus on more premium products in niches like home care, skin care, and laundry care, should navigate those challenges without sacrificing profitability or market share. We might also learn on Friday that Kimberly-Clark isn't faring quite as well as its larger peer.