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They Just Don't Get Procter & Gamble!

NEW YORK (TheStreet) -- In cutting their numbers, Procter & Gamble (PG) blamed the economy and said they had made a myriad of strategic errors too, essentially apologizing for everything but the Lindberg kidnapping.

But how much of its troubles are the result of larger economic issues and how much is self-inflicted?

In the mess of blame and mea culpa, it was hard to tell. But there is a key factor to zero in on. Colgate-Palmolive (CL) and Unilever (UL), a pair of competitors vulnerable to similar economic forces, have clearly performed better over time.

This is central to understanding the currently fractured state of Procter's business and management.

In an article titled "Frustration Grows with P&G," The Wall Street Journal got right to it up top: "Investors had," the Journal wrote, "already been frustrated by P&G's inability to navigate market conditions as well as Unilever PLC and Colgate-Palmolive."

The Financial Times, too, illuminated traders: "its shares have underperformed peers Colgate-Palmolive and Unilever."

FoxBusiness and Reuters managed to write about Procter, though, without even mentioning the relatively good performance of its competitors.

Barron's, for its part, in an article called (groan) "P&G May Have Crested" mentions Danone, a food company that cut estimates yesterday, but not Colgate or Unilever. They add a somewhat simplistic:

"In fact the entire consumer products industry is facing hard times as persistently high U.S. unemployment and rising joblessness in Europe restrict spending."

But Procter is dealing with more than the economy. Their management is clearly problematic. Business is all comparative and in comparison to Colgate and Unilever, Procter lags. That's says a lot...if you say it.

At the time of publication, Fuchs had no positions in any of the stocks mentioned in this column.

Marek Fuchs was a stockbroker for Shearson Lehman Brothers and a money manager before becoming a journalist who wrote The New York Times' "County Lines" column for six years. He also did back-up beat coverage of The New York Knicks for the paper's Sports section for two seasons and covered other professional and collegiate sports. He has contributed frequently to many of the Times' other sections, including National, Metro, Escapes, Style, Real Estate, Arts & Leisure, Travel, Money & Business, Circuits and the Op-Ed Page.

For his "Business Press Maven" column on how business and finance are covered by the media, Fuchs was named best business journalist critic in the nation by the Talking Biz website at The University of North Carolina School of Journalism and Mass Communication. Fuchs is a frequent speaker on the business media, in venues ranging from National Public Radio to the annual conference of the Society of American Business Editors and Writers.

Fuchs appreciates your feedback; click here to send him an email.

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