Procter & Gamble (NYSE: PG) will announce quarterly earnings results before the market opens on Tuesday, Jan. 26. Wall Street isn't expecting much from the consumer goods giant.
Consensus estimates have revenue slumping by 16% to $17 billion as earnings tick higher by 3% to reach $0.98 per share. But foreign currency swings and brand divestments will make those figures less important than usual. Here are three better trends to watch when P&G posts its results.
Improving organic growth
Organic growth is sales growth that strips out the effects of currency movements and product divestments, both of which severely hurt P&G's results last year. It's the key metric for shareholders to watch because it forms the foundation for any long-term profit gains. In its annual 10-K report, management pegs its ability to meet its financial targets as dependent on delivering "organic sales growth above market growth rates."
Soft selling conditions have brought those rates down to near zero in many markets, which is one reason why P&G's organic sales slowed to a 1% gain in fiscal 2015, from 3% in each of the prior two years. But competition is also hurting results. Rival Unilever (NYSE: UL) grew its sales by a sturdy 4.1% in calendar 2015 while P&G's have been flat.
Shareholders can expect organic growth to improve to a positive result for P&G this quarter. But investors will want to see that growth come from a healthy mix of volume and pricing gains, in contrast to last quarter's price-only growth. Unilever's latest 4% gain, for example, was split evenly between higher prices and higher sales volumes.
As the company explains in its 10-K report, "Innovation has always been -- and continues to be -- P&G's lifeblood." Those innovations come in two main flavors: enhancements to existing product lines (new and improved!), and category shifting products, or what P&G calls "game changers" (think Tide Pods).
Unilever credits innovation within its home cleaning portfolio for helping it log strong sales growth in the category along with a huge expansion of profitability. Its core operating margin in the division jumped to 7.6% in 2015 from 6.3% the prior year even as revenue improved by 7%:
P&G hasn't had the same broad success, but management believes a host of new introductions should start catching on with consumers in the back half of the fiscal year. Shareholders should look for any evidence of those innovative wins with rising operating margins and firmer sales growth.
Three months ago, P&G executives said that they believed their results will start improving in the fiscal second quarter before strengthening even more as we head into the summer months. Yet they left their official forecast for the fiscal year, which calls for almost zero organic growth, unchanged.
Any update to that projection will likely move the stock next week. On the one hand, it's likely that P&G is seeing the same volatile global selling environment that convinced Unilever to warn of a "rough 2016" ahead for its business.
Yet that consumer goods giant still posted strong sales and profit gains over the past few months, which shows that there are significant growth opportunities available in many of P&G's markets.
Demitrios Kalogeropoulos has no position in any stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool recommends Procter & Gamble and Unilever. 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.