Both Avon Products Inc. and Procter & Gamble saw net declines in beauty sales for the quarter.
At Avon, revenue dropped 8 percent year-over-year, to $1.4 billion for the quarter. In constant dollars, Avon increased revenue 4 percent; in constant dollars and excluding the impact and sale of Liz Earle, Avon revenues increased 5 percent. The business posted a $95.1 million profit for the quarter. Diluted earnings per share was 7 cents, higher than the consensus of 2 cents.
“Our second-quarter results came in slightly above our expectations, driven by operating performance that was better than anticipated. We also saw some modest easing in foreign currency pressure,” said Avon chief executive officer Sheri McCoy. “We continue to make steady progress on a number of fronts: improving pricing discipline, driving additional cost out of the business, and continuing to build our brand and enhance the representative experience.”
For Avon, revenue declines came from each of its geographic areas. Europe, the Middle East and Africa dropped 2 percent to $520.9 million in sales; South Latin America dropped 12 percent to $535.7 million; North Latin America declined 5 percent to $224.4 million, and Asia-Pacific dropped 10 percent to $141.9. “Asia-Pacific is not yet meeting our expectations despite strong performance in the Philippines,” McCoy said on the company’s earnings call.
Revenue also declined in the company’s different beauty categories. Skin care brought in $417.6 million, a 7 percent decline; fragrance brought in $361.4 million, an 8 percent decline, and color cosmetics brought in $254.3 million, a 6 percent drop, compared to the prior-year period. On a constant-currency basis, skin care grew 4 percent, fragrance gained 5 percent and color grew 6 percent.
“Avon reported a solid quarter featuring a material acceleration in organic sales growth, a slight uptick in representative trends and EPS comfortably ahead of Street estimates,” wrote Barclays equity analyst Lauren Lieberman in a note. “While FX has begun to ease, it was still a drag on cash flow, which — along with a pension plan contribution — held back much improvement on the balance sheet.”
Other analysts weren’t so impressed. “While Avon is starting to make some progress in terms of sales this is nowhere near enough,” wrote Conlumino retail analyst Hakon Helgesen. “There is much more work to be done — on both costs and sales — before the economics of the business are stabilized.”
McCoy outlined Avon’s growth in its top five markets: Brazil, Mexico, Russia, the Philippines and the U.K. In Brazil, revenue was up 2 percent in local currency; in Mexico, revenue was up 7 percent in local currency; in Russia, revenue increased 15 percent in local currency; in the Philippines, revenue was up 6 percent in local currency, and in the U.K., revenue was flat.
The company ended the quarter with a 1 percent increase in active Avon representatives, with increases in Europe, the Middle East and Africa, and North Latin America that were offset by and 8 percent decline in the Asia-Pacific.
Avon is shifting its operational headquarters to the U.K. following the company’s divestiture of the North America business. That shift is expected to be complete in the first quarter of 2017, McCoy said, and it includes her relocation to the U.K. Other executives will split their time between the company’s Rye and Suffern, N.Y., bases and the new U.K. headquarters, she said.
Avon closed the sale of its North America business to Cerberus Capital Management in March. Before that deal closed, Avon unveiled a cost-cutting plan under which it intends to save $350 million over the course of the next three years, as well as consider alternatives for the China business.
That news came at Avon’s investor day, where executives said Cerberus would continue to work with the company to try to rationalize the supply chain, modernize business processes and make decisive strategic choices. Avon said it has identified $70 million in savings to be realized in 2016, with $50 million coming from changes in its operating model and $20 million coming from supply chain and sourcing savings. “We are on track to execute the full $70 million cost savings,” McCoy said Tuesday.
On Monday evening, Avon revealed a new debt financing. The company said it plans to offer $400 million in senior secured notes due 2022, the proceeds of which will be combined with cash on hand for a cash tender offer it has commenced to buy $650 million in existing senior notes. The financing “will reduce our leverage and extend our maturity profile,” said Avon chief financial officer James Scully, adding the company aims to close the transaction in August.
P&G also recorded a dip in net beauty sales, as part of an overall company decrease of 3 percent for its fiscal fourth quarter.
Beauty net sales were down 5 percent to $2.75 billion, while grooming sales were up 1 percent to $1.7 billion year-over-year. Organic beauty sales were up 1 percent, driven by pricing benefits and higher organic volume, P&G said. SK-II drove sales, which were partially offset by lower sales of Olay. In hair care, growth in Pantene and Head & Shoulders was offset by declines in other brands, which P&G said was from competition. P&G said Herbal Essences was the main drag on hair-care sales, but that it is planning for product, package and communications improvements over the next year.
P&G’s net sales for the fourth quarter totaled $16.1 billion, declining 3 percent from the year-ago period. Full-year net sales were $65.3 billion, an 8 percent decrease. P&G said that number includes a 6 percent impact from foreign exchange and two percent impact from Venezuela and minor brand divestitures. Diluted net earnings per share were 69 cents, an increase of 283 percent because the prior-year included the Venezuelan deconsolidation.
For the full fiscal year, net beauty sales declined 9 percent year-over-year, bringing in about $11.5 billion. Full-year grooming net sales also declined — dropping 8 percent to $6.8 billion. Diluted net earnings per share for the full year were $3.69, a 51 percent increase from the prior year.
P&G projects organic sales growth of 2 percent for fiscal 2017. The company said headwinds from foreign exchange and minor brand divestitures are expected to reduce sales growth by about one percentage point. Earnings per share are expected to increase 45 percent to 55 percent compared with the prior-year.
“From a stock standpoint, despite the strong F4Q16 [fiscal fourth quarter of 2016] result, we believe the muted F2017 EPS guidance relative to consensus is likely to limit trading upside, though we expect modest out-performance,” wrote Stifel analyst Mark Astrachan in a note. “We do so given the expectation for improving sales growth, which we think is the most important metric for investors as P&G has underperformed in the majority of categories and relative to peers in recent years.”
“The fourth quarter was another period of progress driving P&G’s results to a balance of strong top-line growth, bottom-line growth and cash generation,” said chairman, president and ceo David Taylor. “We grew organic volume and sales in all reporting segments. We increased investments in innovation and advertising, funded by strong productivity improvement. Looking forward, we’re committed to continued productivity improvement and cost savings that provide the fuel for innovation and investments needed to accelerate and sustain faster top-line growth. We expect fiscal 2017 to mark another significant step toward our goal of balanced growth and value creation and total shareholder return in the top third of our competitive peer group.”
The business is in the process of exiting 41 beauty brands, which are on schedule to be officially sold to Coty Inc. in October. “Going forward our portfolio will be incurred on 10 category based units in 65 brands these are categories P&G had leading market positions and where product technology delivers performance that matters to consumers,” said cfo Jon Moeller.