PARIS — L’Oréal cranked up its business in the fourth quarter, when comparable-sales gains outpaced financial analysts’ expectations.
The French beauty giant said Thursday that like-for-like revenues in the three months ended Dec. 31 increased 4.9 percent to 5.97 billion euros, or $7.46 billion, bolstered by business in its Luxe and Active Cosmetics divisions. In reported terms, sales advanced 8.5 percent.
UBS analyst Eva Quiroga called the quarterly results “a clean beat” in a note. “L’Oréal reported a solid finish to the year with like-for-like growth in the fourth quarter well ahead of expectations [UBS’ forecast had sales up 3.1 percent and the consensus estimate was up 3.6 percent],” she wrote.
Quiroga pointed to strong contributions from the Luxe division, where comparable sales grew 8.6 percent (“ahead of Estée Lauder and LVMH” Moët Hennessy Louis Vuitton), and the Active Cosmetics division, with 7.5 percent like-for-like revenue gains.
Andrew Wood, a senior analyst at Sanford C. Bernstein & Co., wrote in a note that the comparable quarterly sales increase was “led by exceptionally (and very unexpectedly) strong growth in Western Europe [with like-for-like gains up 4.3 percent against the consensus of 1.3 percent], the highest growth in this region since fourth-quarter 2007, and this beat will be most positively received.”
Wood also highlighted the acceleration of gains in New Markets, a rise of 7.2 percent on a comparable basis “to its highest level since first-quarter 2014. L’Oréal now joins Beiersdorf and RB in our coverage as having seen an uptick in [emerging markets’] growth in the fourth quarter over the lows of second quarter-third quarter, with only Unilever seeing a further deceleration.”
“As anticipated and announced, L’Oréal recorded in the fourth quarter its strongest growth of the year,” stated Jean-Paul Agon, the company’s chairman and chief executive officer. “In a volatile economic context and a less dynamic market, the group posted growth in all its divisions and regions of the world.”
Alongside pointing to the Luxe and Active Cosmetics divisions as significantly outperforming their markets, Agon noted: “The Professional Products division continued to improve. Meanwhile, in a slowing market, the Consumer Products division saw a temporary sag in its growth, particularly in the United States.”
While the Consumer Products division’s sales showed a recovery in the fourth quarter, in like-for-like terms rising 3 percent against a 0.4 percent decline in the third quarter, for 2014 its revenues were down 1 percent in reported terms but up 1.6 percent on a comparable basis.
In 2014, L’Oréal net profits increased 66 percent year-over-year to 4.91 billion euros, or $6.53 billion, due largely to the disposal of its half of Galderma, resulting in a capital gain of 2.1 billion euros, or $2.79 billion. As reported, the transaction was part of a buyback of 8 percent of L’Oréal shares held by Nestlé.
In the 12 months, L’Oréal’s operating profit advanced 3.5 percent to 3.89 billion euros, or $5.17 billion, representing 17.3 percent of sales, a record operating margin for the company.
L’Oréal’s sales in the period rose 1.8 percent to 22.53 billion euros, or $29.96 billion. In like-for-like terms, the revenues gained 3.7 percent. Dollar figures are calculated at average exchange for the period to which they refer.
Agon called 2014 “also a year of transformation for L’Oréal, in particular through the acceleration of our digital transformation and strategic acquisitions, such as Magic, NYX, Decléor, Carita and Niely.”
The executive expressed confidence for this year, saying: “In an economic environment that is uncertain, but more favorable on the monetary front, all of our teams are focused to ensure L’Oréal outperforms the market in 2015, and to deliver sales and profit growth.”
The company released its annual results after the Paris Bourse closed Thursday.