P&G forecast below estimates as it spends on growth

NEW YORK (Reuters) - Procter & Gamble PG.N forecast fiscal 2010 earnings way below Wall Street estimates, as it invests in international markets and new products, but its shares fell only slightly as analysts said the investments were needed for future growth.

Procter & Gamble products in an undated image courtesy of the company. REUTERS/Handout

The maker of Gillette razors and Tide laundry detergent, which has seen some of its brands lose market share as recession-hit consumers trade down to cheaper or private-label brands, said on Thursday that it plans to accelerate its spending on new plants and new products.

P&G said it is expanding its presence in faster-growing emerging markets like India, where it launched its Pampers brand of diapers. Within the next five years, the company said it expects to sell its products in 8 million stores in emerging markets, up from about 4 million now.

It is also launching new products at home and abroad under its core brands, such as a new Tide Stain Release laundry additive, the company said at an investor conference.

Due to these initiatives, P&G said it expects earnings of $3.65 to $3.80 per share for fiscal 2010, which starts in July, and net sales ranging from down 2 percent to up 1 percent.

Analysts on average expected fiscal 2010 earnings of $3.92 per share, according to Reuters Estimates.

BMO Capital Markets analyst Connie Maneaty recommended buying P&G shares on any weakness resulting from the outlook as she sees the company’s fundamentals improving over the next year.

“We expected P&G to offer an outlook that pointed to heavy investment to recoup share losses, especially in detergents, and accelerate the investment in faster-growth international markets,” Maneaty wrote in a note to clients. “We believe today’s news represents a solid buy-point.”

When asked about whether it planned to lower any prices this year, P&G executives said there would be “surgical” adjustments, primarily in its laundry and paper goods businesses.

For 2009, P&G expects net sales growth in the range of minus 2 percent to minus 4 percent and net earnings in the range of $4.20 to $4.25 a share. Analysts on average were expecting $4.23 per share, according to Reuters Estimates.

P&G shares were down 8 cents at $51.70 on the New York Stock Exchange.

Reporting by Martinne Geller and Ben Klayman, editing by Dave Zimmerman and Tim Dobbyn