Procter & Gamble Meets Revised Estimates - TheStreet

Updated from 10:12 a.m. EDT

Procter & Gamble

(PG) - Get Report

, the country's largest household products maker, on Tuesday reported first-quarter earnings that were relatively flat and in line with revised Wall Street expectations.

The Cincinnati-based company, whose consumer products range from cosmetics to coffee, said it earned $1.24 billion for the first fiscal quarter, ending Sept. 30, or 88 cents per share, excluding an $85 million after-tax charge related to its restructuring program. Core net earnings were down 2% in the quarter from $1.27 billion in the same year-ago period, though earnings per diluted share were flat. Net sales were $9.97 billion, up 1% from a year ago.

Excluding the restructuring charge, earnings per share were even with the revised consensus estimate among analysts surveyed by

First Call/ Thomson Financial

.

The maker of Tide detergent and Pampers diapers said its first-quarter earnings results were hurt by significant commodity-related cost increases and the negative impact of currency rate changes, particularly in Europe, that more than offset higher product prices and the company's focus on the growth of its premium-priced products.

Still, Chief Executive A.G. Lafley said the company delivered on expectations this quarter and is focused on continuing to improve its results and meet expectations through the fiscal year.

"We have a clear game plan to do this: lead innovation, build big brands and leverage global scale to create leadership market shares and total shareholder return," Lafley said in a statement.

Lafley has been the company's chief executive since June, when he replaced former CEO Durk Jager. After he took the position, Lafley promised that Procter & Gamble would refocus its resources on its core businesses, such as fabrics and home care, and its best new products. In late August, it puts its Clearasil brand, the no. 1 acne skin care brand in the U.S., Britain and Germany, up for

sale.

At the beginning of August, Procter & Gamble issued a fiscal first-quarter profit

warning, saying it expected first-quarter earnings to be flat from the previous year but insisted it would still be able to meet fiscal year 2001 estimates. At that time, the consensus forecast among analysts surveyed by First Call/Thomson Financial was for earnings per share of 92 cents in the first fiscal quarter.

On Tuesday, the company said it remained confident in its estimate of core earnings per share growth in the mid-single digits, or a range of 91 to 93 cents per share for the second quarter, which ends in December. Second-quarter sales, excluding the impact of foreign exchange, are expected to be up slightly with volume down in the low single digits

In an earnings preview published last week,

PaineWebber

said Procter & Gamble's earnings prospects for the first and second fiscal quarters are "significantly below" the firm's long-term expectations. But analysts said that the company's plans to shed non-core operations and increase attention on its "core competencies" offers good value.

PaineWebber raised its long-term target price to $78 last week, although cautioned against aggressive buying at the current levels due to expectations of weak near-term earnings. Still, the firm said significant earnings growth in the first six months of 2001 and the potential that Procter & Gamble might divest some of its non-core assets could provide good upside potential in the long term. It had an attractive rating on the stock, and has acted in an investment capacity for Procter & Gamble.

Shares of Procter & Gamble climbed steadily, albeit slowly, over the first fiscal quarter, regaining some of the value lost after the stock dropped more than 50% in March -- from a 52-week high of $118 in mid-January to a new 52-week low of $52.75. Procter & Gamble finished Tuesday regular trading down $5.44, or 7%, at $71.44.