Procter & Gamble's sales come up short as competition eats into its business

Key Points
  • P&G has had challenges in its U.S. business, as upstarts eat into its market share and retailers squeeze it on price.
  • Activist investor Nelson Peltz got a seat on the P&G board in March. 
  • Peltz told members of the media in June the reorganization he has been pushing for is under "very serious consideration,"
A customer chooses a bottle of Pantene shampoo in a Beijing supermarket.
Zhang Peng | LightRocket | Getty Images

Procter & Gamble reported quarterly earnings that topped analysts' expectations on Tuesday, though fell short on sales.

The revenue miss is likely to do little to allay investors concerns regarding continued shrinking market share amid increased competition from private label brands and upstart companies. The maker of everyday household goods like Pantene hair products, Crest toothpaste and Charmin toilet paper reported net sales of $16.5 billion, less than the $16.54 billion anticipated by Wall Street analysts.

It reported organic sales growth, which strips out the impact of currency and other adjustments, of 1 percent, less than the 2.3 percent anticipated by analysts.

Here's how the company did compared with what Wall Street expected:

  • Adjusted earnings: 94 cents per share vs. 90 cents per share forecast by Thomson Reuters
  • Revenue: $16.50 billion vs. $16.54 billion forecast by Thomson Reuters

P&G's Gillette shaving business continues to be a weak spot for the company, with net sales dropping 3 percent in its grooming business for the quarter. P&G blamed weakness in the business on "investments to improve consumer and customer value." The unit has seen increased competition over the past few years from cheaper rivals like Harry's, which recently expanded in Walmart.

"I do want to be very open about — we expect the competitive environment to stay very heavy for a while," CEO David Taylor told analysts Tuesday morning. "We're going to address in each market online or offline what it takes to grow, because we clearly have the superior products."

Its baby business, which includes brands like Pampers, dropped 2 percent, which it blamed in part on market pullback in the Middle East, Africa and Latin America. The business was also hurt by deep discounts by retailers and "aggressive" private label pricing — a constant sore point for the consumer giant over the past few quarters.

Facing rising commodity costs that for the unit, P&G said Tuesday it is in the process of hiking the price of its Pampers brand by 4 percent in North America and recently told retailers it plans a 5 percent average increase on its Bounty, Charmin and Puff brands.

"There is uncertainty and will be volatility with these pricing moves. They will negatively impact consumption. We'll have to adjust as we go, and as we learn," Chief Financial Officer Jon Moeller told analysts Tuesday morning.

More broadly, the Cincinnati company's profit margins were squeezed, hurt by rising commodity costs, shipping expenses and foreign exchange rates.

It reported net income of $1.89 billion, or 73 cents a share, down 14.9 percent from $2.22 billion, or 84 cents a share, in same quarter last year,

After accounting for restructuring costs, impact of tax act and costs to pay down early debt and the dissolution of its joint venture with Teva Pharmaceutical Industries, P&G said core earnings were 94 cents per share, an increase of 11 percent over the same quarter.

Shares of P&G were shifting back and forth from positive to negative territory.

P&G's ability to defend its brands has been thrust in the spotlight over the past year after Nelson Peltz led a bitter proxy battle that led to a seat on its board. Peltz critiqued P&G for dwindling market share, lack of innovation and weak sales.

Since Peltz's arrival, the company has announced the acquisition of Merck's consumer health business for about 3.4 billion euros ($4.2 billion), broadening its portfolio of health-care brands that includes Vicks, Prilosec OTC and Pepto-Bismol.

It has yet to acquiesce to one of his boldest demands, that the company simplify its structure by reorganizing from 10 business units into three. Peltz told reporters in June the idea is "under very serious consideration."

For P&G's fiscal 2019, the company said it is anticipating organic sales growth of 2 to 3 percent. It expects its core earnings per share to grow 3 to 8 percent up from its 2018 core EPS of $4.22

The company's fiscal year ends June 30.