Nivea maker Beiersdorf has 2.5 billion euros for possible acquisitions
HAMBURG (Reuters) - Nivea skin cream maker Beiersdorf AG (BEIG.DE) is positioned for takeovers having completed a restructuring and has 2.5 billion euros ($3.4 billion) in cash for possible buys, its Chief Financial Officer Ulrich Schmidt said on Tuesday.
Speaking after the company forecast sales rising as much as 6 percent in the current year, Schmidt said organic or self-generated growth remained a priority but the company was more willing to look at possible acquisitions than two years ago.
Under the leadership of Stefan Heidenreich, who took over as chief executive in April 2012 at a time when the group was losing market share to the likes of L'Oreal SA (OREP.PA), Beiersdorf has redesigned its Nivea logo, focused on emerging markets, stripped out underperforming lines and regained market share.
Heidenreich said the reorganization known as "Blue Agenda" was paying off. "Beiersdorf is back on a sustainable growth track," the CEO, whose contract was in January extended to the end of 2019, said in a statement.
The company, whose brands also include Atrixo and Eucerin, gave no further details of its acquisition strategy or what specific areas it might be looking to expand in.
Beiersdorf shares were up 1.6 percent at 73.26 euros by 1022 GMT, having bounced from a four-month low of 70.34 euros set earlier in the session. The stock hit a record 77.33 euros in January in the wake of the company's announcement of Heidenrich's contract extension and its highest sales growth for five years.
Beiersdorf said on Tuesday it plans to open a new factory in India in 2015 as it aims to offset weak consumer spending in the developed markets of Europe and North America.
The company said its full-year 2013 comparable earnings before interest and tax reached 814 million euros ($1.1 billion), against an average analyst forecast of 824 million.
For 2014, the company said it expects sales to rise by between 4 and 6 percent, while its EBIT margin - earnings as a percentage of sales - would be slightly above the 2013 level of 13.2 percent.
The consensus forecast had been for 2014 sales growth of 6.3 percent, according to analysts at DZ Bank, who called the forecast "somewhat disappointing at first glance". They noted however, that "it makes a lot of sense to provide a cautious guidance at the beginning of the year."
In recent years, Beiersdorf has upgraded its forecasts toward the end of the year.
The company also said it would keep its dividend flat at 0.70 euros per share, confounding expectations for an increase to 0.81 euros.
Sales at the company's main consumer division rose 1.2 percent in western Europe last year, the first growth since 2008, Beiersdorf said.
Sales were "generally very good," said Bernstein Research analyst Andrew Wood, but earnings and margins were disappointing, particularly in the fourth quarter.
Beiersdorf stock trades on nearly 29 times expected 2014 earnings, a level Wood called expensive given the company's current level of performance.
At the company's Tesa adhesives division, which makes industrial adhesives used in cars, smartphones and tablet computers, sales should grow faster than predicted market growth of 2 to 3 percent this year, but its operating margin will drop slightly from 2013's 16.9 percent, Beiersdorf added.
In the consumer segment, sales growth should outperform market growth of 4 to 6 percent, with its margin increasing slightly. ($1 = 0.7260 euros)