Consumer-staples giant Kimberly Clark (NYSE:KMB) recently released third-quarter earnings, and the results were mostly good. The company put up solid growth across most of its key metrics, including revenue and earnings per share. Management has positive things to say about the company's most recent quarter and its forward-looking outlook on the quarterly conference call with analysts. Let's look at that today.
Kimberly Clark might not seem like an exciting company because of its product portfolio, which includes items such as Kleenex, diapers, and paper towels, but it has some exciting initiatives on the horizon. Here's what investors should know from the conference call.
KC International is growing by double digits
We achieved organic sales growth of 4%, highlighted by 10% growth in KC International. -- Mark Buthman, senior vice president and chief financial officer
Kimberly Clark is an American company, but it does a lot of its business overseas. In fact, its international operations are growing much more rapidly than its U.S. business. Last quarter, its organic sales, which strip out the effects of currency fluctuations, grew 4%. KC International did the heavy lifting, with 10% organic sales growth.
Kimberly Clark's diapers are a hit overseas, through its Huggies brand. Last quarter, diaper sales soared 25% in China and Russia and increased 10% in Brazil.
Cost-cutting program is driving productivity gains
Adjusted operating profit was up 15% versus [a] year ago, with an operating margin of 17.4%. That's up 180 basis points compared to the prior year.
Over the past several months, Kimberly Clark has embarked on a significant cost-savings program. This was in response to rising input costs, which can be dangerous for companies that manufacture raw materials. Indeed, input inflation was a real concern for Kimberly Clark because of rising pulp costs. Kimberly Clark absorbed $55 million of input cost inflation last quarter. The company is reluctant to increase prices, so the natural reaction is to cut costs. That approach has worked in the company's favor, as it realized $100 million in lower general and administrative spending during the quarter. It helped boost margins and profitability.
Success is flowing through to shareholders
Full-year dividends and share repurchases should be at about $3.3 billion. -- Buthman
Kimberly Clark is committed to returning a high portion of its cash flow to investors. It does so through a combination of dividends and share repurchases. Kimberly Clark's dividend alone provides a 3% annualized yield, and the company has raised its dividend for an impressive 42 years in a row. In all, the company spent $500 million last quarter returning cash to shareholders. There is even more cash on the way, because the company is significantly adding to its share repurchase program.
Spin-off of Halyard Health will create value
We increased our full-year share repurchase target to $2 billion. -- Buthman
This is a significant increase from the previous share repurchase authorization of $1.3 billion to $1.5 billion for the full year. Kimberly Clark did this to receive a large cash payment from Halyard Health as part of its planned spin-off. In the near future, Kimberly Clark will separate its health care business to trade as an independent company. Kimberly Clark shareholders will receive one share of Halyard Health common stock for every eight shares of Kimberly Clark stock. Halyard Healthy will begin trading on Nov. 3, under the symbol HYH.
Underlying business conditions remain strong
Most currencies have weakened relative to the U.S. dollars [in] just the last month. As a result, we expect that currency overall will be a sequential headwind in the fourth quarter. -- Tom Falk, chairman and chief executive officer
It's generally a good sign that the biggest worry for management is currency. Kimberly Clark expects the strengthening U.S. dollar to take a bite out of sales in the current quarter. Investors shouldn't be concerned, because currency doesn't reflect the performance of the underlying business, and no company can control currencies. Kimberly Clark expects full-year earnings of $5.98 per share at the midpoint of its guidance, which would represent 8% growth year over year, as well as mid-single-digit organic revenue growth. Clearly, there's nothing wrong with the company from a business perspective.
The major takeaway from Kimberly Clark's quarterly conference call is that the company is producing steady growth, thanks in large part to its international business. KC International is doing well, particularly in emerging markets. In addition, cost cuts are driving a boost to profits, which the company returns to shareholders through generous share repurchases and dividends.