US: Consumer Services

P&G CEO Says Company Aiming Higher


Procter & Gamble's CEO assured shareholders Tuesday that the company is aiming higher than its latest results.


Bob McDonald, who is chairman of the world's largest consumer products maker, as well as its chief executive, said at its annual meeting that P&G has had solid growth despite economic weakness in the United States and other developed countries. He also said costs for raw materials rose nearly $2 billion more than expected in the past year.

The maker of Pampers diapers, Tide detergent and Gillette shavers still reported higher profit and increased its dividend as its net sales rose 5 percent to $82.6 billion.

"It was good, but not yet great," McDonald said. "We don't settle for good in this company."

P&G's goals for the fiscal year that began July 1 include keeping sales and profit growing and improving productivity throughout the company.

"We know we have work left to do to deliver the growth you expect from P&G," he told shareholders. The company has projected earnings of $4.17 to $4.33 per share for the year.

Shareholder Larry Williams, a retired P&G employee, said he'd like to see more growth in the company's shares.

"The stock has been basically flat. I'm hoping the future is brighter," he said outside the meeting Tuesday.

P&G shares were recently trading lower. They've traded in a range of $57.56 to $67.72 the past year.

Investors overwhelmingly rejected shareholder proposals that would have required the company to say what political contributions it plans to make and to stop testing its pet foods with dogs and cats that it keeps in labs.

Boston-based Northstar Asset Management, which promotes "socially responsible investing," wanted P&G to tell shareholders its plans for contributions that will be made each year by the corporation and its political action committee, and to allow an advisory shareholder vote on the donations. Northstar president Julie Goodridge said that, in the past, contributions have gone to candidates who opposed same-sex marriage and other gay rights causes in apparent contradiction with P&G's company policy against discrimination.

McDonald said such contributions were directed at business issues, not social. He said the company opposed limiting itself as proposed, but he promised to look closely at future contributions.

People for Ethical Treatment of Animals wants P&G to stop keeping dogs and cats in labs to test its Iams brand pet foods. McDonald said P&G has sharply reduced such testing and most Iams testing is now done on pets in homes. But he said some lab testing is still needed to ensure product safety and quality and enable monitoring of animal reactions to new products.

Shareholders re-elected P&G's 11-member board.

The company said director Meg Whitman offered to resign after she was named CEO of Hewlett-Packard last month, but P&G officials asked her to stay on after determining that the relatively small amount of business P&G does with the technology company posed no conflict of interest.