Colgate-Palmolive Profits Rise 11%, CEO-Elect Sees Trends Continuing

Colgate-Palmolive said fourth-quarter profits rose 11%, with strong revenue growth across divisions.

The New York maker of Colgate toothpaste, Palmolive soap and Science Diet pet food also said it expects its sales and earnings trends to continue into this year.

Net income rose to $401 million, or 73 cents a share, from $361.2 million, or 65 cents a share, a year ago. Excluding special items, Colgate earned 78 cents a share, topping analysts' average forecasts by a penny.

Revenue rose 10.5% to $3.2 billion from $2.9 billion a year ago, while worldwide volume growth rose 7%. Volume measures sales without the effects of price and currency translation.

Sales were especially strong in Latin America, which accounts for 25% of Colgate's sales. Revenue in the region climbed 14% to $816.4 million from $714.9 million in the fourth quarter of 2005. Unit volume rose 12%.

North America sales, which represent 21% of Colgate's sales, rose to $657.7 million from $614.6 million.

But gross margins were weaker than analysts were expecting, and that gave investors some reason for concern.

Colgate said its quarterly gross profit margin increased 60 basis points to 56.6%, excluding restructuring charges.

J.P. Morgan analyst John Faucher had estimated the company would report a 56.9% gross margin. Morgan Stanley analyst Bill Pecoriello also said the gross margin expansion fell short of his expectations.

Chief Operating Officer Ian Cook said each operating division increased its spending on advertising, which helped to drive gains in sales and market share.

Cook is expected to replace Colgate's Chief Executive Reuben Mark later this year.

"We are excited to be entering 2007 with a very full pipeline of new products around the world and an array of very strong integrated marketing campaigns to support them," Cook said, in a written statement. "Our excellent top and bottom line trends should continue through 2007."

Previously, Colgate estimated 2007 earnings would rise at a double-digit percentage rate from 2006.

In 2006, Colgate reported net income of $1.35 billion, or $2.46 a share, on $12.24 billion in revenue.

On average, analysts expect Colage to report 2007 earnings of $3.27 a share, on revenue of $12.88 billion.

The New York company held a conference call and webcast at 11 am New York time.