Procter & Gamble Co. Earnings Call Nuggets: Cost Management, Share Weakness in Developed Markets

On Friday, Procter & Gamble Co (NYSE:PG) reported its third quarter earnings and discussed the following topics in its earnings conference call. Here’s what the C-suite revealed.

Cost Management

Lauren Lieberman – Barclays Capital: In the press release you guys mentioned particularly about the change to guidance for the fourth quarter commodity costs being higher year-over-year. As I remember, the commodity cost getting easier was supposed to be a big part of the operating margin improvement that we would see in this fiscal year. So when I combine that with just how much more pricing you guys are taking than the competition. Seeing your volumes flat globally and that’s the implied guidance for Q4, I can’t help but come back to the decision to really not participate much in the way of hedging. It feels to me like you’re introducing more volatility and less predictability in your business than maybe necessary and then maybe the case for your competitors. So, can you guys just comment on that and your position around how to manage costs over time?

Procter & Gamble Co. Earnings: Bad Luck Continues>>

Jon R. Moeller – CFO: First, we will prioritize the management of costs in ways that are sustainable and enduring. We do that by reducing – by improving productivity and reducing overall costs, so that we can absorb these costs increases if we can do that successfully, that stays with us for forever. A hedge only benefits us for the duration of instrument, and as soon as the instrument expires, we are back to the same problem. So, we need to be operating the business in a way that overcomes those costs. We are doing that in two ways; one is through pricing as you’ve mentioned. Our levels of pricing aren’t that different, at least on a global basis from the reports that I’ve seen over the last week. I think Unilever talked about 4.7 points of benefit from pricing. I think Colgate talked about three unchanged benefits from pricing. K-C talked about three points of pricing. So, we are in the same ballpark as far as that. I know I am not opposed to any hedging, and when it’s appropriate and cost-effective, it’s something that will do, but I’m very focused more so on long-term sustainable solutions.

Bob McDonald – Chairman, President and CEO: Lauren, this is Bob. I think also, it’s important to note that we are trying to change the culture of the Procter & Gamble Company to be much more focused on productivity improvement on a going basis. Even though we’ve talked about a productivity program which is on track by way, this was something that we are going to all be focus on going forward. So, as we continue to grow, we create a company which is fit to win over the long-term despite growing size. That’s a change for our Company relative to our historic past, where we have tended to take big one-time restructurings. We want to continue to improve the productivity of the Company going forward.

Share Weakness in Developed Markets

Christopher Ferrara – Bank of America Merrill Lynch: Guys, so obviously your shares were lower in 55% of the categories, but probably much worse in your higher-margin developed markets, and I just wanted to get your color on whether do you think the six country category interventions address the root cause of the broader share weakness in developed markets and I guess if your premium price positioning in what are still sluggish categories is still the root cause? If not, what is and what do you do from a bigger picture perspective?

Bob McDonald – Chairman, President and CEO: Chris, we see the root cause in really two ways and I think Jon mentioned it in his remarks. Number one is the pricing disparities and we talked about the six category country combinations. Of the six four were in the United States and that’s where the majority of the share loss was. We think we have corrected those. We’re not going to allow competition to buy our share with incremental promotion or by not following price increases. The second cause, which also Jon alluded to was in some spots our innovation has been inadequate. This is particularly true in the beauty category and particularly in North America. We’ve had got some great innovations. Jon talked about the facial hair removal innovation on (indiscernible) but the base brand needs innovation. That’s what we are focused on now. Jon talked about other innovations on Pantene Ice Shine has been an example. Again, Ice Shine is doing very well but the base brand needs better renovations. So we are working on bringing those innovations to market, particularly in the Beauty Care area and I think that will alleviate the second cause.