Clorox Company Earnings Call Insights: COGS & SG&A Breakout, Charcoal Business

Clorox Company (NYSE:CLX) recently reported its third quarter earnings and discussed the following topics in its earnings conference call.

COGS & SG&A Breakout

Christopher Ferrara – Bank of America Merrill Lynch: I wanted to try to tease through some of the stuff that, like some of the moving parts for the quarter that may or may not be recurring and then I guess, can we start out with the – like the $50 million to $55 million for IT infrastructure, what was that number, I guess that’s still the full year number of ’13 and what was it in Q3 and if you have it, what was the breakout of COGS and SG&A?

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Stephen M. Robb – SVP and CFO: This is Steve. What I would say is, our outlook continues to anticipate about $50 million to $55 million for that. It breaks out pretty evenly across the quarters with a little bit more in the back half, but generally it’s pretty even, is what I would say. And as you look to fiscal ’14, as we’ve talked before, we do anticipate the typical numbers, we call it, $20 million to $30 million that we typically set aside, will return to more of a normalized rate.

Steve Austenfeld – VP, IR: And Chris, the majority that was in selling and admin expense. There is a little bit that runs through R&D, a small amount that goes through other income, but for the most part that’s in selling and admin, which is again enabler to our selling and admin expense reductions next year.

Christopher Ferrara – Bank of America Merrill Lynch: And then on Venezuela, what was the – can you talk about what the hit was for – like, break out the balance sheet remeasurement versus ongoing if that’s possible? What was in the quarter? And I think you said it was $0.02 for the quarter, but I’m not sure if that was the remeasurement or ongoing, and kind of when I think about that, and is $0.05 to $0.10, I think you said that’s still the number of the drag baked into the ’13 number. Does that make sense?

Stephen M. Robb – SVP and CFO: Yeah, so let me try to help you understand it. So, a couple of things. The balance sheet remeasurement piece in the third quarter was approximately $0.02. Now that’s probably less than what people might expect, because there was actually a 30% devaluation in the bolivar. But I would just remind everyone that we were using the (indiscernible) to translate our financial statements. That had a rate of approximately 5.7. So when it went to 6.3, we only experienced about a 10% devaluation. So that’s why it was only $0.02 devaluation. A little bit less than we were anticipating. Now, what I would say is that the $0.05 to $0.10 that we set aside in our outlook is still the right number, because while the balance sheet remeasurement came in a bit less, unfortunately, the inflation continues to ramp up in that country, and we’re continuing to experience stringent price controls, which is really compressing our margins. So we’ve got the $0.05 to $0.10 for fiscal ’13. It’s the right number based on what we have seen fiscal year-to-date and certainly what we expect and we’ve also set aside a similar amount for fiscal ’14 of $0.05 to $0.10. But that $0.05 to $0.10 again is to cover price controls, inflation. Really the impact that’s coming through in margins as well as just economic uncertainty what we had not built in is an additional devaluation of the bolivar beyond what we’ve already seen.

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Christopher Ferrara – Bank of America Merrill Lynch: Just one last one. I know obviously the weather hurt you, but cold and flu probably helped you, wipes were up double digits, do you have a quantification for what that benefit might have been?

Donald R. Knauss – Chairman and CEO: Well, I think Chris that we saw some health in January from the flu issue we had in November, December it really dissipated fairly quickly after mid-late January and I think that was one of the drivers behind the 10% volume growth that Steve talked about in January we saw that, but it quickly dissipated and then we got into this unusually cold weather from mid-February on through March.

Charcoal Business

Wendy Nicholson – Citi Research: My question goes to sort of to the heart of the charcoal issue, which is not to be overly critical but I am wondering if it was maybe more of a year-over-year comp issue as opposed to weather issue because, I went back and looked at your transcript from third quarter of last year and you talked about high-single digit volume growth in charcoal which just doesn’t show up in the Nielsen data for category growth and I know we don’t see all of the channels of the Nielsen data but I still wonder if maybe we just all had our expectations not set right, given the tough comp. But sort of I guess more broadly speaking about charcoal the category growth there has been so sluggish on an annual basis for so long and even with all your spending your market shares have been under pressure. So I know when you sold the auto care business, it was a really tough decision but it was kind of the right thing to do. Do you think that the charcoal business still has a place in the portfolio given how slow growth it is, are the margins that good that it makes sense to keep it. So if you could talk about a little bit more just not – I don’t really care about the quarter so much, but just longer-term about the business that would be great?

Donald R. Knauss – Chairman and CEO: Yeah. Wendy, it’s Don. I think it still plays a key role in our portfolio. I think it’s obviously the highest share brand we have at almost a 75 share. I think you’ll start to see share building back, again we already saw in April where we are picking up some share gain. I think the sluggishness in the category has been more related to the pricing we’ve taken and there’s no pricing plan for this upcoming year. So I think we’ll start to see these consumption trends turnaround a bit. I also think that there was some dislocation in some of the key customers that are not measured by the Nielsen data as well when you look at the home improvement centers. I think a lot of people had significant investments in the category last year drove some very high consumption plus we obviously had the warmest March since about 115 years last year, which kicked off the season. So there is some unusual stuff going on that I think is transitory and will even out over time. But I do think the brand at a 75 share with very healthy margins and with the fact that I think we’ve got a number of retailers now – for the medium to long-term really see this as a key brand in meal solutions and I think we are making progress on making this more than a four month business. So I think given all those measures, the fact that we are seeing significant tie-ins between Hidden Valley and K. C. Masterpiece and Charcoal, it gives us a lot of credibility with retailers to be part of the solution around meals. So, I think it does play a strategic role in the portfolio and I think you’ll start to see that consumption trend change.

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Stephen M. Robb – SVP and CFO: The one other thing I would add, and I know you’ve heard this before, but internally as we look at this category, I mean it is really unique and then its again just us and private label competing. We have a 100% share of voice and we’ve got fantastic relationships with the retailers on this to where its’ a category that just has great dynamic and they’re very hard to find. So, I think with that, we’ve got a lot of positives and it’s hard to quantify all the tailwinds we get off on other brands that we link it to. So, it really does play an important strategic role.

Wendy Nicholson – Citi Research: And is both, it’s accretive on both the gross margin and on a EBIT margin line, is that right?

Stephen M. Robb – SVP and CFO: It’s got gross margins that are fairly consistent with the Company average, and I would say that the EBIT margins look particularly good and it’s a business that throws off a lot of cash. So, from and economic standpoint, it’s actually a very attractive category and we’re got good shares.

A Closer Look: Clorox Company Earnings Cheat Sheet>>