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Oct 20, 2017

P&G reports tepid quarterly sales; Peltz still looms in board battle

P&G Procter & Gamble corporate headquarters Cincinnati

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Consumer goods giant Procter & Gamble Co (PG.N), which recently declared victory against hedge-fund manager Nelson Peltz's attempt to muscle his way onto the board, reported tepid sales that missed Wall Street estimates.

The company has been trying to revive stagnant sales, one of the key issues Peltz had with P&G in his contentious and very public fight for a board seat, which he lost by a hair.

The Gillette razor maker's shares were down about 3.24 per cent in morning trading on Friday, after being up nearly nine per cent this year.

Peltz pushed for a re-organization that P&G said would lead to a break-up of the company and said P&G's "suffocating bureaucracy" was causing it to lose market share, especially at its more profitable businesses.

P&G argued that it whittled down its portfolio to 60 brands, many of them world-wide popular names, and lopped off several business units to streamline and Peltz's suggestions did not move the needle in terms of what the company was already doing.

At an annual general meeting earlier this month, preliminary votes showed that Peltz lost his bid by a slim margin. Peltz has said he would contest the vote and would not concede until an independent arbiter had certified the votes.

On Friday, P&G reported higher sales of beauty and home care products, but another weak performance in its grooming business eroded some of that growth.

Sales in the grooming business fell more than analysts' had anticipated despite P&G cutting prices on tough competition from upstarts like Dollar Shave Club.

"Grooming was especially weak," RBC Capital markets analyst Nik Modi said noting that the business had seen sales declines for three quarters and missed his own estimates of a two-per-cent decline.

This tapered sales growth, which just rose one per cent to US$16.65 billion in the first quarter, and missed analysts' expectations of US$16.69 billion, according to Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S.

The company, however, said it was maintaining its full-year organic sales and adjusted profit forecast. But it also said it expects US$300 million of commodity costs impacts for the year from the hurricanes that battered the southern U.S.

Net income attributable to the company rose five per cent to US$2.85 billion or US$1.06 per share in the first quarter ended Sept. 30.

The company saw a bright spot at sales in its beauty business, which rose 5 percent, on the rising demand of ultra-premium SK-II skincare products in China.

Strong demand for Tide detergents and Febreze fragrances boosted sales at its Fabric and Home Care business by two per cent.

Excluding items, the company earned US$1.09 per share, beating analysts' average estimates by one cent US.