P&G hits a Covid-19 high note

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Charmin toilet paper, a product distributed by Procter & Gamble, is pictured on sale at a Ralphs grocery store in Pasadena, California January 21, 2014.

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NEW YORK, Jan 19 (Reuters Breakingviews) - Procter & Gamble (PG.N) might want some things about the pandemic to stick around. The $380 billion consumer goods company said on Wednesday diluted earnings per share rose 13% in the three months to December compared to the same quarter a year earlier. A big jump in cleaning products sales helped, but it was the “intense cough/cold/flu season” that pushed organic sales in personal healthcare up 20%.

Shares in the Ohio-based company, which rose 3.5% on Wednesday morning, are up more than 87% in three years, including dividends. That’s better than the S&P 500 Index and far ahead of peers like Unilever (ULVR.L) read more , which has returned minus-6% over the same period. Including debt, P&G is valued at more than 5 times forward revenue, according to Refinitiv, double its European rival.

Inflation could change fortunes. While P&G’s sales increased 6% year-on-year, the cost of making its products rose 15% read more . Even if sickness continues, generic products might start to look more appealing. For now, consumers and investors are sticking with the good stuff. (By Lauren Silva Laughlin)

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(The author is a Reuters Breakingviews columnist. The opinions expressed are their own.)

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Editing by Peter Thal Larsen and Karen Kwok

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