Colgate Brushes Past Estimates

Colgate-Palmolive's (CL) fourth-quarter profit narrowly topped Wall Street estimates, as both sales and margins improved.

The consumer-products giant posted earnings of $414.9 million, or 77 cents a share, compared with $401.2 million, or 73 cents a share, a year earlier.

Excluding restructuring-related charges in both periods, Colgate's profit climbed to $490.7 million, or 91 cents share, from $428.1 million, or 78 cents a share, the prior year.

On this basis, earnings topped analysts' average estimate by 2 cents, according to Thomson Financial.

Colgate's fourth-quarter revenue climbed to $3.64 billion from $3.21 billion in 2006. Analysts projected sales of $3.54 billion.

Unit volume increased 5%, while pricing rose 2%. Foreign exchange added 6.5% to the top line.

The sales growth was fueled by strength abroad; North American sales rose 6.5% and comprised only 19% of the company's total revenue.

Colgate also benefited from a 90-basis-point rise in gross margins, excluding restructuring charges, to a record 57.5%.

"Pleasingly, the 90 basis point improvement in gross profit margin worldwide and other savings programs allowed for strong levels of advertising investment behind our global brands while still generating higher than expected operating profit, net profit and earnings per share for the quarter," said Ian Cook, president and CEO.

Colgate said 2008 sales are have "started off well" across all divisions. The company expects double-digit earnings per share growth for the year.

This article was written by a staff member of TheStreet.com.

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