Last Friday, the Street's stranglehold on Avon
In spite of the challenging conditions for direct-to-consumer sellers, a few companies did quite well during the quarter. Alberto-Culver
But Avon, the world's largest direct seller of beauty and related products, made a few kings on the Street blush by delivering a better quarter than expected. Over the year, Avon's stock price has dropped nearly 50% as this summer's high gas prices and hurricanes have curtailed consumer spending habits. Earlier in October, I mentioned that the Street's kings might be covering up Avon's true value. Let's see whether third-quarter results support my theory.
For the quarter, Avon's total revenues of $1.9 billion were 4% higher, with many regions -- excluding the U.S. and Asia-Pacific regions -- producing solid growth. In Latin America, sales grew 14%, and operating margins came in at 22.6%. Europe also performed well, with Central and Eastern Europe revenues climbing 16%, and Russia surprisingly delivered a 19% increase in revenues.
The U.S. was the poorest-performing region, with revenues dropping 6% and an operating profit 11% lower than last year. As expected, the higher fuel costs hurt consumers and representatives alike. In fact, active U.S. representatives were down 4% during the quarter, which translates into fewer sellers pushing Avon's products.
Results in the Asia-Pacific region weren't pretty, either. For the quarter, the Far East experienced a 3% decrease in revenues, with China's revenues decreasing 16% from last year. The decrease was smudged by declining orders from Avon Beauty Boutiques in anticipation of China's resumption of direct selling.
Although the company is expected to boost earnings by only low-to-mid-single digits for the year, full-year cash flow is expected to reach around $800 million. Increased activity of representatives will positively affect Avon's future revenues if gas prices continue to fall in the U.S. Profits could also become a beautiful thing in China as the re-emergence of direct selling occurs.
Overall, I think Avon is still a great long-term buy. Plus, it's always fun to watch a company whose products can make the kings on the Street blush.
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Fool contributor M.D. Mitchell is down the street at the local junkyard looking for some good trash. Although Viking suits aren't allowed at the Fool unless it's a special occasion, makeup is A-OK. M.D. owns none of the above companies.