Procter & Gamble
The consumer products outfit announced yesterday that it will cement its position in China by paying $1.8 billion to purchase the remaining 20% of a joint venture with Hutchison Whampoa China Ltd. The venture, which was established back in 1988, was structured so that P&G could buy out its partner between 2007 and 2017. But business has been so good, the firm decided to snap up the remaining interest now.
Given the Chinese economy's blockbuster growth and Procter & Gamble's success there so far, it's hard to argue with the logic of the transaction. But the company's continued success in China is by no means a guarantee. French cosmetics maker L'Oreal and local Chinese consumer products makers, for example, will remain fierce competitors in the country.
In addition, Procter & Gamble's balance sheet bears watching. The company's $3.7 billion in free cash flow over the past nine months is impressive, but its total debt of $18.4 billion, including more than $5 billion that is due within a year, is sizable. Standard & Poor's indicated that this recent acquisition will have no impact on P&G's credit rating, but the firm may have little room for more acquisitions in the near term.
In the larger scheme of things, though, P&G's positives certainly seem to outweigh its negatives. If it can continue the momentum it's had in recent quarters, the future certainly looks bright.
Is P&G smart to be buying its way into China even more? Give your opinion on our P&G discussion board.Fool contributor Brian Gorman is a freelance writer living in Chicago, Ill. He does not own shares of any companies mentioned here.