Shares of Avon Products Inc. rose 2.1 percent Thursday even though the beauty firm reported a wider loss and missed analysts’ consensus estimates in the fourth quarter.
The stock rose 18 cents to $8.76 in New York Stock Exchange trading after falling at the opening bell following the disclosure of results. While losses widened, adjusted operating margin improved to 9.3 percent of revenues from 8.2 percent a year ago, price/mix improved 8 percent and average order gained 9 percent as the company moved to insulate itself from market pressures.
Still, units fell 3 percent and active representatives were off 4 percent, respectively.
For the three months ended Dec. 31, the net loss attributable to Avon was $330.7 million, or 75 cents a diluted share, compared to a loss of $69.1 million, or 16 cents, in the prior-year quarter. On an adjusted basis, stripping out restructuring and other charges for the period, adjusted net income declined to 20 cents a diluted share, below the 25-cent analysts’ consensus estimate as well as the year-ago figure of 34 cents.
Revenues declined 12.2 percent, to $2.34 billion from $2.67 billion, while rising 5 percent at constant currency. That fell just shy of analysts’ expectations for revenue of $2.35 billion. Beauty sales were off 13.6 percent, to $1.63 billion, while rising 5 percent at constant currency. Skin care fell 12.9 percent, to $642.4 million; fragrance was down 12.5 percent, to $596.6 million, and color was off 16.3 percent, to $391.7 million. At constant currency, sales in all categories rose, with skin care up 5 percent, fragrance up 7 percent and color up 2 percent.
While expressing disappointment with the pace of progress, chief executive officer Sheri McCoy noted “sequential improvements we made in several key markets and categories in the second half of the year. We have stronger management teams across our key markets and better discipline in executing against Avon’s core processes.”
She said that currency shifts will continue to be a “significant” factor in Avon’s results but the company is “working to mitigate as much of the impact as possible. Avon has weathered emerging market cycles in the past, and I’m confident we will do so again.”
Avon’s preliminary guidance for 2015 is for sales in constant dollars to be “up modestly,” with reported revenue down based on expectations of a 12-point impact from currency translation. Adjusted operating profit is also expected to rise modestly, with currency fluctuation offset by price increases and ongoing cost reduction initiatives, although operating margin “could be down as much as 1 point in reported dollars.”
In Brazil, revenues declined 7 percent but rose 4 percent at constant currency as sales in Latin America, Avon’s biggest region, slid 15 percent to $1.05 billion but were up 10 percent excluding currency movement. In Europe, sales were down 11 percent to $772.9 million, while rising 5 percent at constant currency. Russian revenues were down 29 percent as the ruble weakened while up 2 percent without the currency’s contraction.
In North America, sales were off 12 percent to $326.9 million, and down 11 percent in constant currency.
The company conference call Thursday included a comment from McCoy about reports that circulated last month that private equity firm TPG had held talks about a possible transaction with Avon. James Scully resigned as chief operating officer of TPG-controlled J. Crew Group to become chief financial officer of Avon less than a week after reports surfaced.
“Several of you have asked about the timing of Jim’s appointment and the recent market rumors related to TPG’s involvement with Avon,” she said to analysts on the call. “While we don’t comment on market rumors or speculation, Jim’s hiring was a result of a thorough and thoughtful process and was not related to TPG or any other market rumors.”
Avon said it expects continued progress against its strategic objectives, including cost-reduction plans and an expansion of mobile technologies among its representatives and end users. “I think mobile is the key to the future,” McCoy told analysts. “We’re launching that in a number of markets around the world. We’re launching in the U.S. in the next month or so.”
For the full year, the net loss, inclusive of charges, rose to $388.6 million, or 88 cents a diluted share, from losses of $56.4 million, or 13 cents, in 2013. Revenues declined 11.8 percent to $8.85 billion from $9.96 billion but were “relatively unchanged” at constant currency, the firm said.