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The Clorox Company CLX raised its fiscal 2016 outlook after posting spectacular results for the third quarter, wherein both top and bottom lines improved year over year, alongside exceeding expectations. Notably, this Zacks Rank #2 (Buy) company delivered an earnings beat for the fourth straight quarter.
Quarterly earnings from continuing operations of $1.21 per share were substantially ahead of the Zacks Consensus Estimate of $1.10. Also, the company’s bottom line surged 12% year over year, mainly backed by solid sales and gross margin, partly offset by foreign currency headwinds and higher advertisement and promotional expenses.
Net sales of $1,426 million climbed 1.8% year over year, cleanly surpassing the Zacks Consensus Estimate of $1,412 million. During the quarter, gains from volume growth and higher prices were somewhat negated by a 3% impact from unfavorable currency effects. On a currency-neutral basis, revenues increased 5% in the reported quarter. Volumes jumped 4%, aided by strength noted in all business segments.
Backed by efficient cost savings, lower commodity costs and improved pricing, Clorox’s gross margin expanded 210 basis points (bps) to 45.3% in the quarter. However, the upside was partly limited by greater manufacturing and logistics expenses and currency headwinds.
Revenue by Segment
Sales in the Cleaning segment improved 5% to $465 million, with a 5% increase in volumes. Volumes mainly benefited from the strength in Home Care brands, particularly Clorox disinfecting wipes and Clorox® Clean-up® spray cleaners and Professional Products.
Household sales grew 4% to $467 million, with volumes up 3%. Volume was mainly aided by solid gains in Charcoal, offset by lower volume in Cat Litter.
Sales at the Lifestyle segment rose 5% to $254 million, driven by a 4% increase in volumes, which in turn benefited from double-digit growth witnessed in Natural Personal Care and Water Filtration.
In the International business segment, Clorox’s sales fell 9% to $240 million, reflecting the negative impact of currency. On a currency-neutral basis, sales jumped 9% year over year. Volumes at the segment rose 4%, driven by European, Mexican and Canadian gains.
Clorox ended the fiscal third quarter with cash and cash equivalents of $414 million, and long-term debt of $1,796 million. On a year-to-date basis, the company generated $436 million of net cash from continuing operations compared with $481 million in the year-ago period.
Clorox revealed that in a drive to strengthen its portfolio, it acquired Renew Life Holdings Corporation from Swander Pace Capital, for nearly $290 million yesterday. Renew Life Holdings, which is a leading name in the dietary health space, is expected to boost Clorox’s sales by roughly 2 percentage points in fiscal 2017. Also, the impact of its buyout has been included in the company’s updated outlook for fiscal 2016.
While management continues to expect fiscal 2016 to bear the brunt of adverse currency fluctuations, greater competition and sluggish global economies, it remains confident of its core business strategies. This positive outlook and the solid results encouraged management to raise its sales and earnings per share projections for fiscal 2016.
Clorox now expects fiscal 2016 sales growth in a range of 1%–2%, compared with a flat to 1% increase projected earlier. On a currency-neutral basis, sales growth is now anticipated to range from 4%–5%, as against the previous prediction of 3%–4%.
The company reiterated its effective tax rate guidance for the fiscal in the range of 34%–35%.
However, on including the one-time expenses related to Renew Life’s acquisition, management lowered its EBIT margin guidance to 50 bps, which marks the lower end of its previously announced range of 50–75 bps.
Apart from this, the EBIT margin forecast assumes lower commodity costs and improved pricing, offset by higher inflation in international markets, which will weigh on the manufacturing and logistics costs as well as selling and administrative expenses. Also, the EBIT margin guidance includes higher advertising and sales promotion investments in the fourth quarter.
Finally, the company raised its fiscal 2016 earnings estimate to $4.85–$4.95 per share from $4.75–$4.90 projected earlier.
Other well-ranked stocks worth considering in the same industry include Church & Dwight Co. Inc. CHD, Colgate-Palmolive Co. CL and Unilever PLC UL, each carrying a Zacks Rank #2.
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