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Here's Why You Should Hold on to Clorox (CLX) Stock Now

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The Clorox Company (CLX - Free Report) has been gaining from solid demand for its products and brands, cost-saving efforts, and strong execution and pricing actions. Its IGNITE strategy and digital investments also bode well. This led to the top and the bottom lines beating the Zacks Consensus Estimate in first-quarter fiscal 2023.

The company has been witnessing continued strength in the core International business as it continues to build on the success of the segment's Go Lean strategy. These efforts will help in accelerating profitable growth of the segment. Driven by its IGNITE strategy, which aims to improve profitability in the International business, the company expects to invest selectively in profitable platforms.

Management continues to explore international opportunities, including the acquisition of a majority stake in its joint venture in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. The company believes that this acquisition is poised to boost long-term growth in the International segment. In first-quarter fiscal 2023, organic sales for the International segment improved 8%.

It is on track with the IGNITE strategy, which mainly focuses on the expansion of the key elements under the 2020 Strategy to pace up innovation in each area of business. The IGNITE strategy encompasses the long-term financial targets of achieving net sales growth of 3-5%, EBIT margin expansion of 25-50 bps and free cash flow generation of 11-13% of sales.

Management announced a streamlined operating model to create a faster, simpler company through the Reimagine Work under its IGNITE strategy, which was started in the first quarter of fiscal 2023. This will help increase efficiencies and transform the company's operations in the areas of the supply chain, digital commerce, innovation, brand building and more over the long term. The implementation of this new model is likely to be completed in fiscal 2024.

The company expects the operating model to generate ongoing annual savings of $75-$100 million, with benefits likely to occur starting fiscal 2023. Of this, the company expects $35 million or 20 cents per share to be recognized in fiscal 2023 under other income and expenses.

CLX also announced plans to invest $500 million in the next five years in transformative technologies and processes. This includes the replacement of the company's enterprise resource planning system, its transition to a cloud-based platform and the implementation of a suite of other digital technologies.

Hurdles on the Way

Despite these upsides, Clorox witnessed a sluggish year-over-year performance in the fiscal first quarter. Adjusted earnings of 93 cents per share decreased 23% year over year due to lower gross margin and volume, and higher selling and administrative expenses, partly negated by gains from the pricing. Net sales declined 4% while organic sales declined 2% year over year due to lower volume, partly offset by a favorable price mix.

Also, the company’s gross margin declined 110 bps year over year to 36% due to elevated manufacturing and logistics costs, higher commodity costs and lower volume, which offset the gains from pricing and cost-saving initiatives. Selling and administrative expenses, as a percentage of sales, expanded 190 bps from the last fiscal year’s tally to 15%, attributable to investments in enhancing digital capabilities.

For fiscal 2023, management estimates selling and administrative expenses to be 15-16% of sales, including 1.5 points of impact from its strategic investments for digital capabilities and productivity enhancements. The company anticipates advertising and sales promotion spending to be 10% of sales, induced by its commitment to investing in its brand portfolio.

Also, the company envisions fiscal 2023 net sales to be down 4% to up 2% year over year for fiscal 2023. Organic sales are anticipated to be down 3% to up 3%. The company expects adjusted earnings of $3.85-$4.22 per share for fiscal 2023.

The guidance suggests a year-over-year decline of 6% to an increase of 3%. The company’s earnings view excludes long-term investments in digital capabilities and productivity enhancements to provide greater visibility of the underlying operating performance.

On a GAAP basis, earnings per share are anticipated to be $3.10-$3.47, suggesting a decline of 7-17% from the year-ago period. The company expects fiscal 2023 to remain challenging due to input cost inflation, supply-chain disruptions and the lapping of COVID-19 impacts. Also, demand normalization, particularly in cleaning and disinfecting products, is likely to hurt the health and wellness segment in fiscal 2023.

For fiscal 2023, management continues to expect cost inflation of $400 million, including commodities, transportation and wage inflation. It also anticipates broad-based inflation across the entire supply chain. These factors are likely to hurt the company’s performance in the near future.

The company is also likely to record a charge of $75-$100 million related to the new operating model over fiscal 2023 and 2024. Of this, the company expected $35 million or 20 cents per share to be recognized in fiscal 2023 under other income and expenses.

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In the past three months, shares of this Zacks Rank #3 (Hold) company have gained 1.6% compared with the industry’s growth of 6.9%.

Bottom Line

Although cost inflation remains a near-term headwind, Clorox is leaving no stone unturned to get back on track driven by solid demand cost-saving efforts, pricing actions, its IGNITE strategy and digital investments. Also, a long-term earnings growth rate of 11.6% raises optimism in the stock.

Stocks to Consider

Here are three better-ranked stocks to consider, namely Wingstop (WING - Free Report) , Ross Stores (ROST - Free Report) and Chipotle Mexican Grill (CMG - Free Report) .

Wingstop currently sports a Zacks Rank #1 (Strong Buy). WING has a long-term earnings growth rate of 11%. Shares of WING have declined 9.2% in the past year. You can see the complete list of today’s Zacks #1 Rank stocks here.

The Zacks Consensus Estimate for Wingstop’s 2023 sales and EPS suggests growth of 18.1% and 16.4%, respectively, from the year-ago period’s reported levels.

Ross Stores, an off-price retailer of apparel and home accessories in the United States, currently sports a Zacks Rank #1. ROST has an expected EPS growth rate of 10.5% for three to five years.

The Zacks Consensus Estimate for Ross Stores’ current-year sales and EPS suggests declines of 1.6% and 11.7%, respectively, from the year-ago period’s reported figures. ROST has a trailing four-quarter earnings surprise of 10.5%, on average.

Chipotle Mexican Grill, an operator of fast-casual restaurants, currently carries a Zacks Rank of 2 (Buy). CMG’s expected EPS growth rate for three to five years is 23.4%.

The Zacks Consensus Estimate for Chipotle Mexican Grill’s current financial-year revenues and EPS suggests growth of 15.2% and 30.8%, respectively, from the year-ago reported figures. CMG has a trailing four-quarter earnings surprise of 4.1%, on average.

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