Clorox Co (CLX.N) posted a bigger-than-expected rise in quarterly profit on Thursday, as price increases, lower advertising spending and a decreased tax rate offset higher costs, and it stood by its forecast for the current fiscal year.
Clorox, known for its namesake bleach, was seeing slight improvements in its categories and said it continued gaining market share. While Clorox said some relief was in sight for commodity costs, it was feeling pressure from uncertainty in some international markets and the negative impact of the higher U.S. dollar.
Shares of Clorox, which also makes Brita water filters, Hidden Valley Ranch salad dressing and Burt's Bees lotions, slid 10 cents to $72.06 in morning trading.
Analysts were encouraged by Clorox keeping its 2013 outlook, which now excludes a lift from real estate gains expected to come later than previously anticipated. However, they did not expect the forecast to lead to big gains in the share price.
BMO Capital Markets analyst Connie Maneaty said the stock's valuation seemed fair, with shares trading at 15.7 times her 2013 estimate.
"We believe the shares already reflect the company's healthy market shares and improving category and margin trends," said Oppenheimer & Co analyst Joseph Altobello.
Clorox trades at about 16.9 times earnings, while larger household products maker Procter & Gamble Co (PG.N) trades at 16.5 times profit. P&G is set to report its results on August 3.
PROFIT, SALES RISE
Clorox earned $174 million, or $1.32 per share, in the fiscal fourth quarter that ended in June, up from $169 million, or $1.26 per share, a year earlier.
Sales rose 4 percent to $1.54 billion. The volume of goods sold rose 2 percent.
Analysts, on average, expected Clorox to earn $1.27 per share, on sales of $1.53 billion, according to Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S.
Clorox reduced advertising spending more than expected.
Advertising spending was about 8 percent of sales, below the 9 percent to 10 percent range the company had targeted. About half the reduction in advertising spending came from the international business, where Clorox cut back amid challenging economic conditions and the uncertainty around government price controls in Venezuela and Argentina.
The quarterly profit "would have likely missed without the advertising cuts," JP Morgan analyst John Faucher said.
Clorox raised the U.S. price of bleach 12 percent last August to counter rising material costs that have affected profits. Clorox, whose products include cleansers and charcoal, is more heavily exposed to volatile commodity prices than some larger peers. The commodities Clorox buys include resin, diesel, chlor-alkali and sodium hypochlorite.
Clorox now has "slightly improved expectations for commodity costs" this fiscal year, which began in July.
Clorox said it still expects to earn $4.20 to $4.35 per share in fiscal 2013, with sales up 2 percent to 4 percent. Analysts are looking for a profit of $4.27 per share.
The company's 2013 forecast no longer includes a one-time gain of 5 cents to 7 cents per share from a real estate transaction, as the timing and other details of real estate sales are being worked out.
(Reporting by Jessica Wohl in Chicago; Editing by Gerald E. McCormick and Maureen Bavdek)