After eight straight quarter of earnings beat, Church & Dwight Company, Inc. (CHD - Free Report) reported a negative earnings surprise of 1.7% in the fourth quarter of 2018. Surely, this is not well perceived by investors as the stock is down roughly 7% during the pre-market trading session. Investors might have also fretted over the company’s 2019 earnings guidance that is marginally below the current Zacks Consensus Estimate.
Management now expects earnings of $2.43-$2.47 per share, which is below the consensus mark of $2.48. However, full-year earnings reflect year-over-year growth of 7-9%. This will be backed by higher operating income. Further, this was the sixth consecutive quarter of positive sales surprise. Notably, the top and bottom lines continued to improve year over year.
Management pointed that the Consumer Domestic business posted solid volume growth while pricing remains favorable. Moreover, total organic sales growth exceeded the company’s projection. Certainly, the company’s well-chalked growth endeavors have helped this Zacks Rank #2 (Buy) company’s shares to rally 13.8% in the past six months compared with industry’s growth of 7.3%.
Quarter in Detail
Church & Dwight posted fourth-quarter adjusted earnings of 57 cents per share that missed the Zacks Consensus Estimate by a penny but improved 9.6% from the year-ago period primarily driven by higher net sales. Further, the effective tax rate in the quarter under review was 18.9%, down from 33.2% in the same period last year.
The company reported net sales of $1,074.4 million that advanced 4% year over year and surpassed the Zacks Consensus Estimate of $1,066.4 million. Results were backed by continued category growth and healthy market share gains. Markedly, the company witnessed improvements in 11 of 14 domestic categories.
Organic sales rose 4.3%, surpassing management’s guidance of 3% growth. This, in turn, was fueled by volume growth of 2.7% as well as positive product mix and pricing of 1.6%.
Gross margin contracted 250 basis points (bps) to 44.1% on account of rise in input costs, adverse impact of the U.S. tariffs related with Waterpik and increased incentive compensation. This was partially offset by favorable pricing and volume as well as productivity programs.
Further, marketing expenses increased 4.8% to $126.4 million. As a percentage of sales, it increased 10 bps to 11.8%. SG&A expenses were $154.5 million, depicting rise of almost 5.7%. As a percentage of sales, SG&A expenses escalated 30 bps to 14.4% due to IT and R&D investment expenditure and higher incentive compensation. Income from operations for the period came in at $193.4 million, down 9.9%, while operating margin contracted 290 bps to 17.9%.
Consumer Domestic: Net sales in this segment were up 4% to $819.5 million, courtesy of higher household and personal care sales. Organic sales improved 4%, benefiting from a 2.2% increase in volume, and 1.8% positive impact from price and product mix. The main growth drivers in this segment were WATERPIK oral care products, ARM & HAMMER clumping cat litter, ARM & HAMMER liquid and unit dose laundry detergent, BATISTE dry shampoo, VITAFUSION and L’IL CRITTERS gummy vitamins, and OXICLEAN stain fighters.
Consumer International: Net sales in the segment grew 5% to $178.6 million, backed by recent buyouts, broad-based sales growth for household and personal care products, and improvements in export business. Organic sales increased 9%, driven by volumes rise of 8.9% and favorable price and product mix of 0.1%. Impetus to organic sales was mainly provided by BATISTE, FEMFRESH, ARM & HAMMER dental care, and NAIR in the export business, ARM & HAMMER clumping cat litter and liquid laundry detergent in Canada, ARM & HAMMER liquid laundry detergent, TROJAN and OXICLEAN in Mexico and Waterpik in several countries.
Specialty Products: Sales in this segment rose 1.5% to $76.3 million. Organic sales slipped 3.7%, on account of an 6.4% drop in volumes, somewhat cushioned by favorable broad-based pricing of 2.7%. Further, management stated that demand for poultry products remained strong. However, informed that reduced milk prices have been leading to soft demand in the dairy industry.
Other Financial Updates
Church & Dwight ended the quarter under review with cash and cash equivalents of $316.7 million, long-term debt of 1,508.8 million, and total shareholders’ equity of 2,453.8 million. In 2018, the company generated cash flow from operations of $763.6 million and incurred capital expenditure of $60.4 million. Additionally, the company increased the quarterly dividend by 5% to 22.75 cents per share.
Guidance for 2019
Church & Dwight remains on track to retain its impressive organic sales growth trend in 2019, backed by solid product launches and investments. Also, price increases on nearly 30% of the company’s portfolio is likely to have a favorable contribution toward gross margin expansion.
That said, the company expects 2019 to be a solid year, wherein it anticipates sales growth to be roughly 3.5%. This is expected to be driven by strength across all three segments effective product launches.
Gross margin is likely to increase 35 bps (excluding U.S. tariff impacts) or up 10 bps including the same. Notably, management expects gains from pricing and productivity to compensate for elevated commodity and transportation costs, as well as impacts from the U.S. tariffs. Operating margin growth is expected to fall in line with Church & Dwight’s Evergreen model (up 50 bps), primarily fueled by lower SG&A costs.
For the first quarter of 2019, management now anticipates sales growth of approximately 3.5-4% on a both reported and organic basis. Earnings are projected to be 66 cents per share, reflecting a year-over-year increase of 5% and it is in line with the Zacks Consensus Estimate.
Stocks to Consider
The Procter & Gamble Company (PG - Free Report) , with long-term EPS growth rate of 7%, carries a Zacks Rank #2. You can see the complete list of today’s Zacks #1 Rank (Strong Buy) stocks here.
Lamb Weston (LW - Free Report) , with a Zacks Rank #2, has long-term earnings per share growth rate of 12%.
Ollie’s Bargain Outlet (OLLI - Free Report) , a Zacks Rank #2 stock, has surpassed estimates in the past four quarters.
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