Consumer staples giant Kimberly Clark (NYSE:KMB) released quarterly earnings Tuesday morning, and the results were good for the most part. The company beat average analyst estimates on both earnings per share and revenue, and maintained its reputation as a model of consistency. The markets have looked very shaky over the past few months, but Kimberly Clark once again proved it's a steady company with strong brands.
Kimberly Clark benefited from its strong brands, expansion into new markets, and aggressive share buybacks. Going forward, the company has a catalyst in the form of a planned spinoff of a major business segment (health care), which the company hopes will create value for shareholders.
Here is a rundown of Kimberly Clark's quarterly performance and its future outlook.
Strong brands and new markets drive results
Kimberly Clark is thriving on two main fronts. One is through the company's strong brands, which rose above the economic uncertainties that have rocked the markets over the past few months. Kimberly Clark's flagship products include Kleenex and Huggies and Pull-Ups diapers. One of the best aspects of a consumer staples company is that its products are utilized regardless of the overall economic climate, which helps insulate the business against economic downturns.
This is reflected in the company's buoyant results. Revenue and earnings per share increased 3% and 5%, respectively, versus the same period last year. Kimberly Clark's sales actually were better than they appeared, since currency fluctuations served as a significant headwind. American companies doing business outside the United States suffer when the U.S. dollar strengthens in value. That's because domestic companies then collect fewer dollars when its international sales are converted back into U.S. dollars. Kimberly Clark's organic sales, which strip out currency effects, rose 4%.
International sales did the heavy lifting for Kimberly Clark last quarter. The company's international sales rose 10%, which was far better than its performance. Double-digit percentage growth is very strong performance for a consumer staples company.
Profits grew above the rate of revenue growth primarily because of the company's aggressive productivity gains. Kimberly Clark is in the process of a major cost cutting program, which helped boost earnings last quarter. The company expects to generate $120 million-$140 million of pre-tax cost savings this year, which will help offset most of the restructuring costs associated with its planned spinoff.
Kimberly Clark's profits also benefited from the company's strong share buyback program. It bought back $205 million of its own stock last quarter, a 24% increase year-over-year. This helped reduce the company's diluted share count by 2.5% year-over-year.
Spinoff on the horizon
Kimberly Clark's major strategic initiative going forward is its planned spinoff of the company's health care business, Halyard Health, which generates approximately $1.7 billion in annual sales. This will be a tax-free event, and management believes its strong leadership position in its key markets will make the company a viable stand-alone entity.
This transaction should create significant value for shareholders. Kimberly Clark recently revealed it will receive a large cash payment from Halyard Health as part of the spinoff. Kimberly Clark said that as a result of the cash payment, it will increase its 2014 share repurchase target to $2 billion, up from its previous plan of $1.3 billion to $1.5 billion, a 42% increase from the midpoint of its previous repurchase target for the year. This will help the company continue to reduce its share count, and boost earnings. Kimberly Clark shareholders will receive one share of Halyard Health common stock for every eight shares of Kimberly Clark stock.
The Foolish takeaway
Kimberly Clark is a large, global consumer staples company, and maintained its reputation for solid growth with its most recent quarterly results. The company did a good job of growing organic revenue, particularly in the international markets. In addition, Kimberly Clark is cutting costs and aggressively buying back its own stock, which help support profits.
Going forward, the company has a major initiative on the horizon in the form of the spinoff of its health care unit. This should be accretive to earnings, and the company is already seeing this materialize in the form of the cash payment allowing it to greatly increase its planned share buybacks. In all, shareholders should be pleased with Kimberly Clark's results.
Bob Ciura has no position in any stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool recommends Kimberly Clark. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.