From the "nobody'll care, but ..." department:
On the weekend
show I predicted that when
report their earnings in a month or so, the surprise (for some, at least) will be that there won't be a negative surprise. The stocks of both companies have been walloped in the wake of
Procter & Gamble's
disappointing earnings news, but both Colgate and Kimberly have emphasized that they don't expect to take the same hit.
Who isn't disagreeing with Colgate and Kimberly? Try Bill Steele, the consumer goods analyst for
Banc of America Securities
, who isn't shy about raising red flags (though he certainly didn't raise one ahead of P&G!). He was quoted
here in the past voicing concerns about Colgate, which is one reason his Colgate comments are so noteworthy.
Colgate, he says, has no global competitor in its largest market, toothpaste. And while Kimberly-Clark goes head-to-head with Procter & Gamble in the tissue market, P&G has been fighting more serious battles on several other fronts, especially detergent, so has been less aggressive with pricing and promotion of tissue. What's more, he says, Kimberly-Clark's manufacturing is significantly more efficient than P&G's.
, which got clocked Friday after warning of lower earnings. At its current price of 11, Steele thinks it's a takeover candidate. With "lots of free cash flow" -- in the neighborhood of 10% -- Steele says he wouldn't be surprised if Dial is being reviewed by larger companies.
But even if it is -- and even if Kimberly-Clark and Colgate
disappoint -- do you really think in this environment anybody will care?
For the record, BofA rates P&G a buy (downgraded from a strong buy March 7), and lists Colgate a market perform, Kimberly a strong buy and Dial a market perform (downgraded Friday from a buy). BofA has done no recent banking for those companies.
Help, I've been Seymoured:
If you missed it last week, the luminous
picked a fight with me last week about
recent comments here that questioned the quality of
last earnings report. Specifically, he zeroed in on my comments that Intel shouldn't be judged on the returns from its investments -- but on its main business. "Was Intel," he wondered, "really cooking the books, trying to cover up a slide in its real business of making chips?"
No, it wasn't, and I never said it was. But meeting or beating Wall Street estimates just because of unexpectedly good investment returns
, I argue, lower the quality of those earnings. At least the earnings Wall Street thinks it's paying for. There is nothing wrong with a company making gobs of extra money by investing in stocks. Money
good. Companies can use the money -- no matter how they got it -- to invest in new equipment, hire new employees and build entirely new businesses.
But gains from the sale of stocks cannot be predicted with any consistency, which is why (when you follow my argument through) they should be reported separately from operating earnings. All Wall Street cares about is whether a company meets or beats its estimates -- not
As reader Todd Voigt emailed, "The fact of the matter is that if Intel didn't include those stock sales in their EPS, it would've missed its earnings estimates. Those estimates are not based on how much stock they will sell. It is based on their operations. They are hiding the fact that on the margin Intel's core operations were weaker than expected for that quarter. Intel is a great company, but if I want to own a company that will buy stocks for me I'll buy
. If I want to own Intel, I want to own them for their product, management and brand."
Unfortunately, in this market, that's not the way to make money.
Just go back and read the (other Jim's)
excellent piece last week about how he had to change investment styles because that's the way the "game" is now being played.
Tips for the Timid included a tip to beware of the stocks of companies that have "cutesy" stock symbols. Oh, you mean like LUV (
Ah ... an exception to every rule!
Herb Greenberg writes daily for TheStreet.com. In keeping with TSC's editorial policy, he doesn't own or short individual stocks, though he owns stock in TheStreet.com. He also doesn't invest in hedge funds or other private investment partnerships. He welcomes your feedback at
email@example.com. Greenberg also writes a monthly column for Fortune.
Mark Martinez assisted with the reporting of this column.