Consumer staples giant Kimberly-Clark Corporation (NYSE:KMB) is on a roll. The stock is up 14% in the past year, which is much better performance than the market overall. The S&P 500 Index is up 9% in the same period. And this doesn't even include Kimberly-Clark's market-beating dividend yield, which recently sat at 3%.
Kimberly-Clark kept its hot streak intact when it released better-than-expected second-quarter earnings on July 23. Here are five insights from the company's conference call with analysts to shed more light on its strong performance.
Currency delivers a big blow
For the full year, we expect that currency will negatively impact earnings by more than 20%.
-- Maria Henry, chief financial officer
The strengthening U.S. dollar is causing major headaches for large U.S. multinational companies such as Kimberly-Clark. Revenue and profits are being severely affected by foreign exchange, and last quarter was no exception. Total revenue fell 6%, but organic revenue, which excludes currency fluctuations, actually increased 4% year over year.
Diapers hitting it out of the park
In terms of our key growth markets, organic sales in diapers increased 30% in China.
-- Thomas Falk, chairman and chief executive officer
Kimberly-Clark's major diapers brand, Huggies, is helping the company post excellent results in its personal care segment. Organic sales of diapers increased in the low teens on a percentage basis in developing and emerging markets. Specifically, diaper sales grew 30% in Eastern Europe thanks to price increases. In Brazil, organic diaper sales rose 5%.
Such strong performance in the emerging markets is at least helping to offset such a stiff headwind from foreign exchange.
Cost cuts in full FORCE
Our teams continue to deliver significant cost savings in order to improve profitability and fund the investments that we're making behind our brands.
Kimberly-Clark maintains an aggressive cost-cutting program called FORCE (focus on reducing costs everywhere), which has helped boost profits while revenue suffers from foreign exchange. Adjusted gross margin expanded by 140 basis points last quarter, year over year, to 35.8%. Management now expects the FORCE program to deliver at least $350 million in cost savings this year, better than its prior expectations of $300 million.
Commodity crash lends a helping hand
Commodities were a $40 million benefit in the quarter, mostly from oil-based materials.
The huge crash in oil prices over the past year has mostly been deemed a negative, particularly for Big Oil. Among the beneficiaries of the plunge in commodity prices are consumer staples companies like Kimberly-Clark that depend on raw materials. Management now expects commodity price deflation to boost profits to the tune of $100 million-$200 million just this year.
Innovation to fuel future growth
In terms of upcoming innovations in North America, we have product upgrades coming on both Huggies premium diaper and Pull-Ups training pants, and in adult care, we're launching Poise Impressa, which is a unique innovation that helps prevent Light Bladder Leakage.
It might seem hard to believe that much, if any, innovation could be achieved in product categories like paper towels and diapers. But Kimberly-Clark's product innovation should help continue the organic sales growth the company enjoyed last quarter. That's because newer product lines are commanding higher prices, and are higher-margin.
The key takeaway for investors is that Kimberly-Clark is widely regarded as a solid, steady dividend stock, and the company upheld that reputation last quarter. Currency is a tough headwind, but the company is growing organic sales nicely. This, along with its cost-cutting efforts, should provide more than enough cash flow for Kimberly-Clark to keep paying and raising its dividend.