Avon calling: company’s profit sinks as sales continue to slide

NEW YORK, Tue May 1, 2012 – Avon Products Inc. reported a 2 percent drop in quarterly sales after seeing the number of active sales representatives fall and the company dealt with higher costs.

Avon, the world’s largest direct seller of cosmetics, also said net income fell 81.5 percent in the first quarter, hurt by more “reps” leaving, with the exodus in North America the most pronounced.

The company, which last month rebuffed a $10 billion takeover bid from smaller rival Coty Inc., last year shelved a top-to-bottom business review until its new CEO started.

Sheri McCoy, previously a senior executive with Johnson & Johnson, took the reins of the company on April 23, replacing Andrea Jung after a 12-year stint.

But in a statement on Tuesday, the company’s finance chief Kimberly Ross said only that the Avon would discuss its growth strategy “at the appropriate time.”

Avon reported a net profit of $26.5 million, or 6 cents per share, on revenue of $2.58 billion in the quarter that ended March 31, compared with net income of $143.6 million, or 33 cents, on revenue of $2.63 billion a year earlier.

PepsiCo, Coke Enterprises beat Wall Street forecasts

NEW YORK, Thu Apr 26, 2012 – PepsiCo Inc. and Coca-Cola Enterprises reported higher-than-expected quarterly profits and stood by their full-year forecasts, helped by price increases on sodas.

Like most food and beverage companies, PepsiCo and Coke Enterprises raised prices to offset higher commodity costs. But those price increases can often hurt sales volume.

PepsiCo said net income was $1.13 billion, or 71 cents per share, in the first quarter, down from $1.14 billion, or 71 cents per share, a year earlier.

Excluding items, earnings were 69 cents per share, in line with management’s expectations, but 2 cents ahead of analysts’ estimates, according to Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S.

Net revenue rose 4 percent to $12.43 billion, driven by price increases. Currency exchange rates reduced revenue growth by 1 percentage point.

Volume rose 2 percent in the company’s Americas Foods unit as strength in Latin America offset declines at the North American units of Frito-Lay and Quaker Foods. The Americas Beverages unit’s volume fell 1 percent.

The company stood by its 2012 outlook, which calls for earnings to fall 5 percent from the $4.40 per share reported for 2011. PepsiCo expects net revenue growth in the low single-digit percentage range for this year.

For PepsiCo, 2012 is a transition year as it ramps up marketing, cuts thousands of jobs and streamlines its portfolio in a bid to improve performance, especially in its North American drink business.

The company has lagged Coca-Cola Co as even its flagship Pepsi-Cola has fallen to No. 3 among soft drinks in the United States, behind Coca-Cola and Diet Coke.

Also on Thursday, Coke Enterprises reported first-quarter earnings of 36 cents per share, topping the analysts’ average estimate of 33 cents, according to Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S.The company, which bottles Coca-Cola Co drinks in Europe, also affirmed its full-year forecast for earnings per share to rise about 10 percent.

Caterpillar first quarter profit beats Wall Street predictions

PEORIA, Ill., Wed Apr 25, 2012 – Caterpillar Inc. reported a 29 percent rise in first-quarter profit on Wednesday and beat analyst expectations thanks to continued demand for replacement machinery in North America and growth in its mining business.

The world’s largest maker of construction machinery reported net earnings of $1.6 billion, or $2.37 per share, compared with $1.2 billion, or $1.84 per share, a year earlier.

The company said the first quarter earnings per share figure was its highest on record.

Caterpillar’s sales rose 23 percent to $16 billion during the first quarter, the company said.

Analysts on average had projected a profit of $2.13 a share, according to Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S. Revenue, however, fell short of the $16.2 billion that Wall Street had expected.

In a press release, Caterpillar CEO Doug Oberhelman said the company was experiencing a “slowing” in China and Brazil as those countries “took steps in 2011 to slow their economies and bring inflation under control.” Strength in the United States was expected to offset that weakness.

ConocoPhillips profit dips on output decline after oil leak trims output

HOUSTON, Mon Apr 23, 2012 – ConocoPhillips reported a drop in quarterly profit as asset sales and the shutdown of its operations in China after an oil leak there trimmed its oil output.

Net profit at the company, which will split into two separate businesses at the end of the month, fell to $2.9 billion, or $2.27 per share, compared with $3 billion, or $2.09 per share, in the year-earlier quarter.

Excluding $330 million of special items, first-quarter 2012 adjusted earnings were $2.6 billion.

Microsoft rises as better-than-expected PC sales boost profit

REDMOND, Wash., Fri Apr 20, 2012 – Shares of Microsoft Corp rose 4 percent in premarket trading on Friday, after the world’s largest software maker reported a quarterly profit ahead of expectations on better-than-expected sales of personal computers.

The deluge of mobile devices such as smartphones and tablets, which has seen Apple Inc and Google Inc vie for top honors in the consumer electronics market, has left Microsoft trying to reinvent itself to compete in the changing landscape.

Thursday’s results boosted optimism in the company, which expects to launch a new tablet-friendly version of Windows, and at least four brokerages raised their price targets on the stock.

“The product launches should create a positive mix effect on gross margin as was the case in the previous two Windows launches,” Barclays analyst Raimo Lenschow said in a research note to clients.

Lenschow, who has an “equal weight” rating on Microsoft’s stock, raised his price target by $3 to $36.

The company’s shares, which closed at $31.01 on Thursday on the Nasdaq, rose to $32.12 in trading before the bell. The stock touched a 4-year high of $32.95 last month, but has declined 6 percent since.

GE profit, revenue top Wall Street forecast; orders up 20 percent

FAIRFIELD, Conn., Fri Apr 20, 2012 – General Electric Co. topped Wall Street’s profit and revenue forecasts for the first quarter, helped by strong demand for energy equipment and railroad locomotives.

The largest U.S. conglomerate said industrial orders had risen 20 percent in the quarter and that selling prices had improved in most of businesses. This should help CEO Jeff Immelt achieve his goal of boosting profit margins by a 0.5 percentage point this year.

“We witnessed broad-based strength in orders across all our infrastructure businesses and in both equipment and services,” Immelt said in a statement.

GE shares rose 0.9 percent to $19.31 in premarket trading.

Investors noted that the company had notched solid organic growth — a measure that factors out the influence of acquisitions or fluctuations in exchange rates.

“Organic revenue growth in the industrial business was great at 11 percent,” said Jack De Gan, chief investment officer of Harbor Advisory Corp., a Portsmouth, New Hampshire, firm that owns GE shares. “GE has been a disappointment for a long time … (and) is now finally going to get back to where its earnings can compound at a rate better than the S&P for a while.”

As of Thursday’s close, GE shares were up 6.6 percent for the past year, trailing the 10 percent rise of the Standard & Poor’s 500 stock index.

Investors said the report was a good sign for the rest of the industrial sector. Fellow blue-chip companies United Technologies Corp., 3M Co. and Caterpillar Inc. are all due to report results next week.

GE “beat on revenues, which they haven’t really been able to do in a long time, and that really bodes well for industrials in particular,” said Kim Forrest, senior equity research analyst of Fort Pitt Capital Group in Pittsburgh.

General Mills profit dips as commodity costs rise

MINNEAPOLIS, Wed Mar 21, 2012 – General Mills Inc. posted a quarterly profit in line with Wall Street expectations and stood by its lowered full-year forecast as it faces higher costs for raw materials.

“Fiscal 2012 has represented a challenging operating environment, with the highest level of commodity inflation that we’ve seen in 30 years,” CEO Ken Powell said in a statement on Wednesday.

Shares of General Mills were down 0.7 percent at $38.50 in trading before the market opened.

Powell said sales momentum in the current fourth quarter would somewhat ease the gross margin declines that hurt results in the third quarter, which ended on Feb. 26.

The maker of Progresso soups, Cheerios cereal and Green Giant frozen vegetables said third-quarter net income had fallen to $391.5 million, or 58 cents per share, from $392.1 million, or 59 cents per share, a year earlier.

Excluding one-time items, earnings were 55 cents per share.

Analysts on average had been expecting 55 cents per share, according to Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S, after General Mills forecast a range of 54 cents to 56 cents in February.

At the time, the company cut its full-year outlook to a range of $2.53 to $2.55 per share from a prior forecast of $2.59 to $2.61, citing weak sales.

On Wednesday, the company stood by that full-year forecast.

Third-quarter net sales jumped 13 percent to $4.12 billion, helped by price increases and last year’s acquisition of a controlling stake in the Yoplait yogurt brand. Excluding the acquisition, sales volume would have fallen, as some consumers were turned off by the price increases.

Eli Lilly profit drops sharply as Zyprexa medication goes generic

INDIANAPOLIS – Eli Lilly & Co’s. quarterly profit dropped 27 percent after its top-selling Zyprexa schizophrenia treatment lost U.S. patent protection and saw competition from generic rivals.

The drugmaker backed its 2012 outlook that calls for a steep drop in profit this year due largely to the Zyprexa loss. It said an independent safety committee recommended continuing two late-stage clinical trials for its closely watched experimental Alzheimer’s treatment.

Lilly’s fourth-quarter net income fell to $858.2 million, or 77 cents per share, from $1.17 billion, or $1.05 per share, a year ago.

Excluding items, earnings of 87 cents per share were 6 cents ahead of the average estimate of analysts, according to Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S.

Chevron profit more than doubles, tops Wall Street forecast

SAN RAMON, Calif. ― Chevron Corp. said its quarterly earnings more than doubled, beating Wall Street forecasts, as the second-largest U.S. oil company benefited from high oil prices and strong refinery margins.

Chevron’s profit rose to $7.8 billion, or $3.92 per share, from $3.8 billion, or $1.87 per share, a year earlier.

Analysts had expected $3.48 a share, according to Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S.

Sales rose 26 percent to $61.26 billion.

Chevron reported 2.6 million barrels of oil equivalent per day (bpd) of output, down from 2.74 million a year-ago.

Benchmark Brent crude averaged $112 per barrel in the quarter, down from $117 in the second quarter but up from $77 a year before.

On Thursday, Exxon Mobil Corp and Royal Dutch Shell Plc. reported sharp increases in quarterly profits that came in ahead of analysts’ forecasts.

Chevron recorded a one-time gain of about $500 million from the sale of its Pembroke refinery to Valero Energy Corp.

In July, Chevron said a slower Gulf of Mexico project ramp-up and a Thai pipeline problem would trim its 2011 production by about 30,000 bpd.

Chevron shares were down slightly in premarket trading.

Shale gas helps Halliburton profit beat Wall Street forecasts

Halliburton Co., the world’s second-largest oilfield services company, posted a higher-than-expected quarterly profit as more drillers tapped its expertise in extracting gas from U.S. shale rock.

Despite low natural gas prices, demand for shale energy continues to grow across the United States amid calls for energy independence and a push for cheap supply from the chemical and transportation sectors.

Halliburton shares fell 0.7 percent in premarket trading. Dahlman Rose & Co analyst James Crandell said the strong earnings likely will have “neutral implications” for the shares Monday.

Third-quarter net profit climbed to $683 million, or 74 cents per share, from $544 million, or 60 cents per share, a year earlier.

Excluding one-time items, Halliburton earned 94 cents per share, topping analysts’ average estimate of 92 cents, according to Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S.

Revenue rose 40 percent to $6.55 billion. Analysts had expected $6.39 billion.

Producers are plowing billions of dollars into developing U.S. oil shale fields, tightening the market for equipment and allowing the services companies to maintain higher prices.

Many analysts expect the North American shale boom to last at least through 2012, even with the weak American economy.

“Despite short-term macroeconomic concerns, I continue to believe in the long-term prospects for our business,” Halliburton Chief Executive Dave Lesar said in a statement.

The company said delays in operations in Iraq and an operational shutdown in Libya during the third quarter hurt results.

Halliburton said profit from operations outside the United States “recovered at the rate we expected” during the quarter.

Three rigs did start operating in Iraq toward the end of the quarter, however. And in Libya, where rebels have ousted ruler Muammar Gaddafi, the company is assessing whether to reopen.

Halliburton has put behind it a major liability attached to former unit KBR Inc (KBR.N), which just settled a five-year dispute over failed bolts on subsea oilfield flow lines off Brazil for $200 million.

Shares of Houston-based Halliburton fell 0.7 percent to $27.48 in premarket trading. The stock has dropped 8.3 percent this year.