Kimberly-Clark Corp. (KMB) posted weaker-than-expected fourth-quarter earnings Wednesday as profit margins declined in a "challenging" environment of higher input prices and increased currency market volatility.
Kimberly-Clark said adjusted earnings for the three months ending in December came in at $1.60 per share, 5 cents shy of the consensus forecast of $1.60 but up 1.9% from the same period last year. Group sales, the Kleenex maker said, fell 1% from last year to $4.569 billion but came in just ahead of Street forecasts thanks to across-the-board price increases.
"In 2018, we returned to delivering organic sales growth and we continued to launch innovations, pursue our growth priorities and invest in our brands," said CEO Mike Hsu. "Overall, it was a challenging macro environment and our margins declined, reflecting significant commodity inflation and currency volatility."
"Nonetheless, I'm encouraged that in response to these headwinds we achieved higher selling prices in the second half of the year," he added "We also achieved $510 million of cost savings, generated strong cash flow and returned $2.2 billion to shareholders through dividends and share repurchases."
Kimberly-Clark shares fell 2.7% to close at $112.15 on Wednesday.
Kimberly-Clark said it sees 2019 sales falling by between 1% and 2%, thanks in part to "unfavorable" exchange rates and a stronger U.S. dollar, but noted that organic sales would rise by 2% thanks to "higher net selling prices of at least 3%".
Adjusted earnings per share, the company said, would come in around $6.50 to $6.70, compared to $6.61 for the whole of 2018 and a consensus forecast of $6.78 per share.