Not long ago, I wrote about Procter & Gamble's
According to CEO A.G. Lafley, P&G's prospects for the next four years couldn't be better. Before he talked about the future at the company's annual meeting, he reviewed the last four years; the statistics are quite impressive. P&G has given shareholders more than $11 billion worth of dividend payments. The stock price has come close to doubling (split-adjusted), but that's not all that doubled: The number of billion-dollar brands in the company's stable went from 10 to 22. You can credit the Gilletteacquisition for helping there. In addition, sales have jumped 40%, and profits have jumped 100% over the last four years.
Can the powers that be at P&G keep the momentum alive? I think so. Lafley is looking for sales growth of 5% to 7%, improved operating margins (appreciating from 19% to 24%), and double-digit earnings growth, a most desired attribute. That's music to shareholders' ears, especially those who enjoy steady blue-chip stocks.
More importantly, can P&G deliver on this prediction? Because let's not forget the following famous maxim: The glories of the past in no way serve as a reliable indicator of the future; performance can never be guaranteed. We'll see, but the answer lies in P&G's brand power.
People love the products and use them daily. And they must constantly restock them in their kitchens, bathrooms, laundry rooms, etc. Crest, Swiffer, Gillette razors, and my personal favorite, Pringles potato chips, continue to hold their own on the ultra-competitive supermarket shelves. Plus, the company is looking to international markets to fuel earnings growth, which seems viable because emerging markets should provide a lot of opportunities to capture loyalties via these strong brands and products.
I think P&G shareholders will have a nice stock on their hands for a while. Many out there are probably wondering whether these stated growth rates and margin points are sustainable given the risk of higher inflation and energy costs down the line. I agree that such a risk is the one potential stumbling block in this round of guidance. Nevertheless, Procter & Gamble should be able to manage its brand portfolio through such an environment via efficiency initiatives and cost cuts to create shareholder value. As I've mentioned before, P&G, along with stocks such as Clorox
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