By  on October 31, 2007

The Proctor & Gamble Co. fired on all cylinders during the first quarter, with each business segment posting midsingle-digit or higher top-line growth with group profits soaring 14 percent.

The firm's beauty segment posted net earnings that climbed 9 percent to $689 million on a sales increase of 6 percent to $4.6 billion.

Group net earnings for the quarter ended Sept. 30 climbed to $3.1 billion, or 92 cents a diluted share, from $2.7 billion, or 79 cents, in the prior year on sales that gained 8 percent to $20.2 billion from $18.8 billion.

"The fiscal year is off to a good start," said A.G. Lafley, chairman and chief executive officer. "P&G continues to deliver broad-based top- and bottom-line growth across its portfolio of businesses and geographies. This momentum, along with a robust initiative pipeline for the year, gives us confidence that P&G will deliver another strong year of growth."

Despite the outlook, the company said it expects to face lower gross margin rates in the coming months as "higher commodity and energy costs" impact results.

In the company's beauty segment, Jon Moeller, vice president and treasurer, said on a conference call to analysts that the sales growth was "led by double-digit growth in prestige fragrances."

He said the impact of the SK-II business disruption in Asia that began late September last year "reduced total beauty sales by approximately one point this quarter.

"In fragrances, very strong double-digit results were driven by recent initiatives on the Dolce & Gabbana, Hugo Boss and Lacoste franchisees," Moeller said.

In the quarterly report, the company said: "Hair Care sales were up midsingle digits driven by double-digit developing region growth behind Pantene and Head & Shoulders. In Skin Care, Olay sales were up midsingle digits on top of a very strong base period in North America that included the launch of Olay Definity. Olay facial moisturizer's market share in the U.S. increased more than one point versus the year-ago period."

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