Kimberly-Clark Posts Mixed Results, Lowers 2015 Guidance
Dallas-based Kimberly-Clark Corp. (NYSE: KMB – $112.00) posted adjusted fourth-quarter results of $1.43 per share vs. $1.30 a year ago on sales of $4.83 billion. Revenue declined 1.4% from 2013’s final period. Analysts had estimated per share earnings of $1.37 on sales of $4.91 billion; much of the shortfall being blamed on currency translation. Organic sales, which exclude foreign currency fluctuations and other adjustments, increased 3%, driven by a 7% gain in its international segment. Sales at the personal-care segment, which includes Huggies and is the largest segment by revenue, fell 1% to $2.3 billion, weighed by currency rates. Sales in North America fell 2% in the segment, weighed by lower Pull-Ups training pants and Huggies diaper volumes. Sales at the consumer-tissue segment, which includes Cottonelle and Kleenex, fell 3% to $1.6 billion. Looking ahead into 2015, K-C said it expects to post per-share earnings of $5.60 to $5.80 a share for the year, below Wall Street expectations of $6.00. The company forecast a negative impact from foreign currency of 8% to 9%. The maker of Huggies diapers has struggled in recent quarters as parents have skewed to the high and low ends of the price spectrum. The trend has played into the hands of rival Procter & Gamble whose premium Pampers and low-end Luvs are gaining share. Kimberly-Clark is also facing new competition from P&G’s adult incontinence products and Japan’s Unicharm Corp., which is starting to sell pull-up diapers in Brazil. Both threaten Kimberly-Clark’s leading positions in the segments. Given the tepid outlook, KMB is a stock to watch and I will be monitoring the growth prospects to see if the shares remain a candidate for income accounts. The high-quality shares have been higher by 17.1% over the past 52-weeks and yield 2.8%, but growth and earnings momentum may be slowing. The shares were lower in today’s trading by about 5.7% on the news.