NEW YORK (Real Money) -- Kimberly-Clark (KMB) management doesn't understand the rules. Don't they know that Kimberly is just a dumb bond-market-equivalent play? Don't they know there's not supposed to be any real growth? Don't they know that the company is overvalued and helpless? Don't they know, most of all, that they aren't supposed to take radical action to bring out shareholder value, like they did last night when they announced a spinoff of the company's capricious health care unit?
That kind of value creation isn't supposed to happen. It's downright unfair to the bears!
Sometimes I actually feel these are the thoughts that go through the minds of those people who think the only thing that matters to the rising prices of stocks is what the Federal Reserve does. The thinking goes like this: Without lower rates, no one would pay 19x earnings for a 5% grower, and Kimberly is only where it is because of that higher dividend.
That's why, for example, of the nine major Wall Street firms that follow Kimberly, there isn't a single buy recommendation. There are six holds and three sells. This for a $42 billion company with fantastic brands that has seen its shares rise 30% so far this year.
There's no sponsorship whatsoever here, and I believe this is partly because the analysts are just waiting for the Fed to taper quantitative easing and for the stock to fall apart.
In the meantime, the company, led by the terrific Tom Falk, is constantly trying to figure out how to bring out value in a slower-growth environment. Kimberly is a relentless cost-taker-outer. It is willing to end price wars if necessary by walking away from lower-margin business, as it did in Europe not long ago. Now it is even willing to part with a business that was, at one point, viewed as integral to the diversification away from tissue and diapers, yet has by now developed into a hard-to-manage play that brings down the entire growth rate of the company.