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Colgate-Palmolive 4Q Net Falls 5.4% On Slower Sales Growth, Higher Costs

DOW JONES NEWSWIRES Colgate-Palmolive Co.'s (CL) fourth-quarter earnings fell 5.4% as the consumer-products company's sales grew slower than expected and higher costs hurt margins. The world's largest toothpaste maker by revenue and market share has been challenged of late by rising costs for oil, resin and other products used to make, ship and package its products as some cost-conscious shoppers trade down from branded products, especially in developed markets like the U.S. and Europe. The company raised prices and slashed costs, but hasn't been able to fully mitigate the higher input costs and has projected a decline in margins for the year. Colgate-Palmolive reported a profit of $590 million, or $1.21 a share, down from $624 million, or $1.24, a year earlier. Excluding business realignment costs and other items, earnings rose to $1.30 from $1.24. Revenue jumped 4.9% to $4.17 billion. Volume was up 4% while prices increased 3%. Analysts polled by Thomson Reuters had most recently forecast earnings of $1.29 on revenue of $4.18 billion. Gross margin fell to 57.4% from 59.1%. In North America, net sales rose 3.5%, as volume grew 3% and prices increased 0.5%. Overseas, where Colgate derives most of its revenue, sales were up 6.5% in Latin America, 5% in the Europe/South Pacific region, and 5% in the Greater Asia/Africa region. Shares closed at $89.44 and were inactive premarket. The stock has fallen 1.2% over the past three months. -By Melodie Warner, Dow Jones Newswires; 212-416-2283;

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