NEW YORK ( TheStreet) -- In cutting their numbers, Procter & Gamble (PG - Get Report) 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 - Get Report) 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.