P&G reports profits off 1 percent in 1Q

CINCINNATI (AP) - The Procter & Gamble Co. sees consumers around the globe starting to come back to its household brands and expects sales to strengthen in the months ahead.

The world's largest consumer products company reported better-than-expected first-quarter results Thursday and offered an improved outlook after a year of households cutting spending and trading down to cheaper brands.

The maker of Tide and Pampers reported profits were off 1 percent at $3.35 billion, or 1.06 per share, compared to $3.31 billion, or $1.03 per share, a year ago. Sales fell 6 percent to 19.8 billion. The company says revenue was hurt by the stronger dollar overseas. Analysts expected earnings of 99 cents on $19.83 billion for Cincinnati-based P&G. This was the first quarter under new CEO Bob McDonald, who has pledged to aggressively win back market share from lower-priced competitors and store brands.

The company has been making price cuts, stepping up promotions, and adding cheaper versions of products such as Pampers, Charmin toilet paper and Bounty paper towels as well as new premium products such as Tide anti-stain additives.

"September quarter results give us encouragement we are making the right choices to grow market share profitably," McDonald said in a statement.

The company said its Pantene and Head & Shoulders shampoos and Gillette Fusion shavers were among strong sellers, while overall sales were undercut by declines in developing markets in the region that includes eastern Europe and Africa.

Sales also fell for discretionary lines such as high-end fragrances and salon products. The company said organic sales - a key gauge that excludes acquisitions and other such effects on sales totals - were up 2 percent, after the company had earlier forecast them to be flat to down 3 percent. P&G now expects organic sales to grow 2 to 5 percent in the current quarter, up from an earlier forecast of 1 to 4 percent, with net sales growing 3 to 7 percent.

For its full fiscal year, the company expects 2-4 percent organic sales growth and 3-6 percent growth in net sales, which had fallen 3 percent last year. P&G also said earnings per share for the October-December quarter should be $1.36 to $1.44, boosted by an expected 43-cent gain from its recently announced $3.1 billion sale of its prescription drug business.

For the year, P&G raised the low end of earlier guidance by 3 cents to a range of $4.02-$4.12. Analysts surveyed by Thomson Reuters are expecting $1.40 for the second quarter and $4.10 for the year. P&G shares rose $1.38, or 2.4 percent, to $58.61 in premarket trading. In the past year, they have traded between $43.93 and $66.82.

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