NEW YORK — Double-digit growth in beauty and health care led the Procter & Gamble Co. to post solid earnings growth in the second quarter.

For the three months ended Dec. 31, the Cincinnati-based megamanufacturer reported net income rose 15 percent to $1.49 billion, or $1.06 a diluted share. That compares with last year’s profits of $1.3 billion, or 93 cents.

Excluding aftertax charges of $98 million, or 7 cents a share, this year, and $146 billion, or 10 cents, last year, net income grew 10.2 percent to $1.59 billion, or $1.13, from $1.45 billion, or $1.03, a year ago. Earnings per share beat Wall Street estimates by 1 cent.

Net sales for the period rose 5.8 percent to $11 billion from $10.4 billion a year ago.

Driven primarily by beauty and health care, total unit volume grew 8 percent during the quarter.

"The Clairol acquisition added 2 percent to volume, which was offset by the effects of the Jiff Crisco ‘spin merge,’" said chief financial officer Clayton Daley on a conference call. "Volume excluding acquisitions and divestitures was up a strong 7 percent. This was driven by health care, beauty, baby and family care, fabric and home care and significant growth in our Greater China and Eastern European businesses."

By business segment, beauty care net earnings rose 15 percent to $507 million on a 10 percent sales spurt to $3 billion. Unit volume was up 14 percent. Excluding the impact of acquisitions and divestitures, volume increased 6 percent on the strength of Pantene and Head & Shoulders hair care products. Fine fragrances also added to volume growth.

"Fine fragrances had another outstanding quarter," said treasurer Juan Pedro Hernandez on the call, "with volume up over 30 percent. Hugo Boss continues to lead the growth."

P&G said sales trailed volume growth due to mix impacts driven by the Clairol business and the repositioning of the company’s hair care portfolio of brands into multiple price tiers to deliver better consumer value.

The health care segment also drove results, as net earnings almost doubled, gaining 47 percent to $253 million on a 17 percent boost in sales to $1.57 billion. Unit volume grew 18 percent from strong results in oral care and pharmaceuticals.P&G’s reorganization continued to pay off, as greater efficiencies allowed more revenue to reach the bottom line. Core gross margin expanded 140 basis points to 50.1 percent of sales from 48.7 percent a year ago. Also, marketing, research and administration costs fell 110 basis points to 29.7 percent of sales from 30.8 percent last year. Those improvements allowed operating margins to rise 250 basis points to 20.4 percent of sales from 17.9 percent in the prior-year period.

"This is the sixth consecutive quarter where we have delivered year-over-year core gross margin improvement in excess of 100 basis points," said Daley.

Overall, for the first half of the year, P&G reported net income swelled by almost a quarter, or 23.1 percent, to $2.96 billion, or $2.10 a diluted share. That compares with last year’s profits of $2.4 billion, or $1.71. Excluding restructuring charges in both periods, earnings grew a more modest 13.7 percent to $3.17 billion, or $2.25, from $2.79 billion, or $1.99.

Net sales for the period increased 8.1 percent to $21.8 billion from $20.17 billion a year ago. Excluding restructuring acquisitions and divestitures, sales grew 8.3 percent to $21.8 billion from $20.13 billion last year.

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