Consumer goods giant Procter & Gamble
During P&G's fourth-quarter and full-year earnings conference call, management touted its leading brands, leading market share, global scale and scope advantages, innovation, and a "deep" understanding of consumer demand. As general as this description sounds, the company has the numbers to back its global dominance.
For the year, total sales advanced 12%, earnings per share grew 15%, and operating cash flow improved 18%. Top-line trends were relatively balanced across P&G's primary operating segments, which include beauty and health care, household care, and businesses acquired from Gillette in October 2005. There was notable strength in oral care sales in developing markets and fabric/home care volumes from Tide and Febreze products. And in the global battle for diaper sales, Pampers is seeing "softness" in Western Europe, but holding its own against Kimberly-Clark's
P&G is also integrating Gillette, the largest acquisition in its history. Management mentioned that cost-savings and other integration moves are ahead of plan, and it sees respectable single-digit growth in the acquired razor blade, Duracell, and Braun businesses, which will now be grouped into the existing segments.
Fiscal 2008 is expected to be another strong year, as P&G expects total sales growth of 5% to 7% and 13% to 14% earnings growth. The company plans on continuing to integrate Gillette and to build on 4% to 6% pricing and volume growth, with a boost of a couple percent on overseas sales from a weak dollar. Acquisitions and divestitures could end up hurting the bottom line slightly, but strong free cash flow generation should allow P&G to increase the dividend for 52 straight years and continue to aggressively buy back shares.
So while competitors such as Unilever
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Fool contributor Ryan Fuhrmann has no financial interest in any company mentioned. Feel free to email him with feedback or to discuss any companies mentioned further. The Fool has an ironclad disclosure policy.