* Q1 EPS $1.11; analysts' view $0.95
* Sales fall 0.87 pct to $1.37 bln, just above Street view
* Raises FY view to $4.05-$4.20/share from $4.00-$4.15
* To launch natural Burt's Bees toothpaste in January
* Shares up 0.5 percent in afternoon trade
(Adds comments from company, Greenpeace; updates stock)
By Jessica Wohl
CHICAGO, Nov 2 Strong sales of disinfecting
products spurred by the H1N1 flu pandemic helped Clorox Co
(CLX.N) post a bigger-than-expected quarterly profit and raise
its full-year forecast, sending its shares slightly higher.
The maker of household goods such as Clorox bleach and
wipes as well as Glad trash bags said lower commodity prices,
cost cuts and price increases also boosted results.
"H1N1, that's the name of the game," said UBS analyst Nik
Modi. "That's what really helped them with the upside."
H1N1, or swine flu, drove 2 percentage points of sales
growth in the quarter, Larry Peiros, chief operating officer of
Clorox North America, said during a conference call.
Overall sales fell less than 1 percent to $1.37 billion,
coming in just ahead of analysts' expectations.
Clorox is the latest in a string of companies to benefit
from flu-related sales. Ecolab Inc (ECL.N) saw strong demand
for sanitizer in its latest quarter. [ID:nN27234482]. 3M Co and
Kimberly-Clark Corp reported increased sales of face masks.
[ID:nN22177970] Drugstore Walgreen Co WAG.N saw sales rise
after giving more flu shots at its pharmacies. [ID:nN02313508]
Clorox, like many other companies, ramped up production to
meet increased demand. While Clorox is seeing continued high
demand for disinfectants as the flu season progresses, it
expects some drop-off in demand in the future.
Clorox earned $157 million, or $1.11 per share, in the
fiscal first quarter, up from $128 million, or 90 cents per
share, a year earlier.
Analysts had expected earnings of 95 cents per share in the
quarter, which ended on Sept. 30, according to Thomson Reuters
Shares of Clorox were up 0.5 percent to $59.50 in afternoon
trade after jumping as much as 2.4 percent.
BLEACH PRODUCTION CHANGING, TOOTHPASTE ON THE WAY
Volume rose 1 percent after falling 2 percent in the fourth
quarter. Volume in the cleaning category rose 4 percent, with
record shipments of Clorox disinfecting wipes and Clorox toilet
International volume rose 3 percent, driven by bleach and
other disinfecting products in Latin America.
Clorox said it plans to start using high-strength bleach,
rather than chlorine, to make its namesake bleach at its seven
U.S. plants, a move that should be break-even in cost.
Greenpeace applauded the change, which it said would
eventually eliminate risks from chlorine gas to 13.6 million
Americans who live downwind of Clorox facilities as well as the
risk posed by transporting chlorine gas.
Clorox also said it would continue its push in natural
products by introducing six Burt's Bees toothpastes in January.
The toothpastes will compete directly with brands such as
Colgate-Palmolive Co's (CL.N) Tom's of Maine.
It is also expanding international distribution of Burt's
Bees personal products from 14 countries to more than 20.
Clorox said it does not expect to gain distribution for its
Green Works eco-friendly, premium-priced laundry products in
Wal-Mart Stores Inc (WMT.N) soon, as pricing is key in the
detergent aisle of stores these days. The detergent and stain
remover are off to slower starts than Clorox anticipated.
Clorox said it now expects to earn $4.05 to $4.20 per share
in the current fiscal year, which began in July. That forecast
includes a 2-cent hit from adopting a new accounting standard.
Clorox previously forecast a profit of $4.00 to $4.15 a
share, and analysts have been expecting $4.18.
Clorox said it still expects sales to rise 1 to 2 percent
this year. It expects volume growth of about 3 to 4 percent.
Modi, who has a "buy" rating on Clorox shares, said the
company is still being cautious with its earnings outlook.
(Reporting by Jessica Wohl; Editing by Dave Zimmerman, John
Wallace, Gary Hill)