Colgate-Palmolive's CEO Discusses Q1 2012 Results - Earnings Call Transcript

Colgate-Palmolive (CL)

Q1 2012 Earnings Call

April 26, 2012 11:00 am ET

Executives

Bina H. Thompson - Vice President of Investor Relations

Ian M. Cook - Chairman, Chief Executive Officer and President

Analysts

William B. Chappell - SunTrust Robinson Humphrey, Inc., Research Division

Wendy Nicholson - Citigroup Inc, Research Division

Linda Bolton-Weiser - Caris & Company, Inc., Research Division

Christopher Ferrara - BofA Merrill Lynch, Research Division

Joseph Altobello - Oppenheimer & Co. Inc., Research Division

Ali Dibadj - Sanford C. Bernstein & Co., LLC., Research Division

Dara W. Mohsenian - Morgan Stanley, Research Division

Caroline S. Levy - Credit Agricole Securities (USA) Inc., Research Division

John A. Faucher - JP Morgan Chase & Co, Research Division

William Schmitz - Deutsche Bank AG, Research Division

Joe Lachky - Wells Fargo Securities, LLC, Research Division

Alice Beebe Longley - The Buckingham Research Group Incorporated

Javier Escalante - Consumer Edge Research, LLC

Constance Marie Maneaty - BMO Capital Markets U.S.

Lauren R. Lieberman - Barclays Capital, Research Division

Mark S. Astrachan - Stifel, Nicolaus & Co., Inc., Research Division

Jason Gere - RBC Capital Markets, LLC, Research Division

Unknown Analyst

Presentation

Operator

Good day, everyone, and welcome to today's Colgate-Palmolive Company First Quarter 2012 Earnings Conference Call. Today's call is being recorded and is being simulcast live at www.colgate.com. [Operator Instructions] At this time, I would like to turn the call over to the Vice President of Investor Relations, Ms. Bina Thompson, for opening remarks. Please go ahead.

Bina H. Thompson

Thanks, Anne. Good morning, and welcome to our first quarter 2012 earnings release conference call. With me this morning are Ian Cook, Chairman, President and CEO; Dennis Hickey, CFO; Victoria Dolan, Corporate Controller; and Elaine Paik, Corporate Treasurer.

This conference call will include forward-looking statements. These statements are made on the basis of our views and assumptions as of this time and are not guarantees of future performance. Actual events or results may differ materially from these statements. For information about certain factors that could cause such differences, investors should consult our most recent Annual Report on Form 10-K filed with the Securities and Exchange Commission and available on our website, including the information set forth under the captions Risk Factors and Cautionary Statement on Forward-Looking Statements.

We will discuss organic sales growth excluding foreign exchange, acquisitions and divestitures. We will also discuss gross profit; gross profit margin; selling, general and administrative expenses as a percentage of net sales; operating profit; operating profit margin; net income; and earnings per share on a diluted basis, excluding the impact of the items described in the press release; and earnings per share on a currency-neutral basis. A full reconciliation with the corresponding GAAP measures is included in the press release and is posted on the Investor Relations section of our website at www.colgate.com.

We're very pleased with our results for the start of 2012. The solid top line that we saw build through the year last year has continued into the first quarter, with good organic sales growth composed of balanced pricing and volume. And as you'll hear when we go through the divisions, our pricing actions have not suppressed volume or market share. On a global basis, our market shares are up in 8 of 12 categories, and market shares are up nicely in all regions of the world. Our new product launches have met with success, and we have more in the pipeline to continue the momentum.

Despite continued commodity cost pressures, our gross margin increased sequentially from the fourth quarter of 2011 by 50 basis points, as we told you it would. And as Ian said in the press release, our expectation is that gross margin should increase nicely for full year 2012.

Our Funding the Growth program continues to deliver substantial savings across the P&L. We're particularly pleased with the progress we have been making on our overhead costs, which were down 40 basis points. Our ongoing focus in this area is delivering good results. And as we continue to implement further savings projects, we expect this good performance to continue.

As you know, increasing gross margins and reducing fixed costs allow us to increase advertising behind our businesses at the same time as growing the bottom line. So while concerns remain regarding macroeconomic conditions in the developed markets, we're cautiously optimistic. Although forecast for GDP growth remain modest, we are seeing growth across our categories, which is encouraging.

The emerging markets, over half of our business, continued to perform very well despite continued competitive activity, as all manufacturers see these regions as an opportunity for growth. As you know, we have been in these markets for many years and have established strong franchises which have continued to grow. Our balance sheet remains healthy, and cash generation for the full year should continue to be strong. So let's turn to the divisions.

Starting with North America. We're very pleased with our results in North America where we delivered solid organic sales growth of 5.5%. For the second quarter in a row, we had positive pricing after 9 consecutive quarters of negative pricing. And while we still need to be cautious relative to the macroeconomic environment and general consumer spending habits, it was very encouraging to see positive dollar category growth in all our categories, with our overall consumption outpacing that category growth. And in addition, the very heavy promotional activity on the part of some of our competitors seems to have lessened, which bodes well for everyone.

As referenced in the press release, our all-outlet toothpaste share increased a full point in the quarter, widening the gap with our nearest competitor to over 3 points. The momentum behind our super premium-priced Colgate Optic White toothpaste continues as we have created buzz among stylists, celebrity influencers and magazines. And in addition, this successful new product has won awards in a number of consumer surveys for Best New Product. Our relaunch of Colgate Total Advanced toothpaste has also met with success, supported by effective in-store activities and 2 new television commercials: one for the general market; and one for our Hispanic consumers, which is being aired on key Hispanic networks. As you know, our share of the Hispanic market is very strong, about 50% year-to-date.

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