Sometimes, while scrambling to find the next big investment idea, we can stumble over the ones that already surround us. Anyone whose morning routine involves an invigorating shower with Pantene shampoo, brushing their teeth with Crest, and enjoying a piping mug of Folgers coffee, has, perhaps unwittingly, used three products sold by Procter & Gamble
Fiscal third-quarter numbers released this morning resemble an instant replay of the second quarter. That's a good thing. Three months ago, sales and net income were up 20% and 22%, respectively, with a weak dollar contributing 4% to top-line growth.
Third-quarter revenues jumped 22% (the fastest pace in over a decade) to $13 billion, with currency fluctuations responsible for 5%. Earnings rose 20% to $1.09 a share, thanks in part to a 150-basis-point increase in gross margins to 50.9% and restructuring-related charges. The quarter's results were highlighted by volume growth across all regions and 19 of the top 20 brands.
Procter & Gamble operates five principal business segments: fabric and home care, baby care, health care, snacks and beverages, and beauty products. For the quarter, there was broad-based volume growth in most established brands.
Sales of Crest Whitestrips and heartburn medicine Prilosec OTC were particularly strong. Sales growth ranged from a subdued 6% in snacks and beverages to a more robust 48% in the beauty-care division, the latter due in part to last year's acquisition of Wella, a German hair-care company.
P&G's total operating cash flow grew 23% to $2.98 billion. With capital expenditures at only 4% of sales, the company has already generated free cash flow in excess of $5.6 billion so far this fiscal year.
Procter & Gamble earns fully half of its sales in international markets and should not expect to be aided by favorable currency fluctuations indefinitely. Furthermore, margin expansion may be peaking. Any pricing pressure exerted from retailers such as Wal-Mart
These concerns notwithstanding, Procter & Gamble is clearly on target. Organic sales growth, which excludes the impact of acquisitions, divestitures, and foreign currency, is handily outpacing management's stated near-term goal of 4% to 6%. With management calling for sales growth in the high-teens next quarter, fiscal year projections of $4.60 per share are within reach. At only 23 times forward earnings, Procter & Gamble should please investors as well as consumers.
Which of Procter & Gamble's 300 products is your favorite? Discuss it with other Fools on our P&G board.
Fool contributor Nathan Slaughter prefers Crest to Colgate, though he owns none of the companies mentioned.