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Kimberly-Clark 2Q Net Off 18% On Rising Costs; Raises Year Sales View

DOW JONES NEWSWIRES Kimberly-Clark Corp.'s (KMB) second-quarter earnings fell 18% as the consumer-products company struggles to offset rising commodity costs with price increases that won't erode its market share. The company raised its full-year sales estimate for the second time, projecting growth of 5% to 7%, up from its April forecast of 4% to 6%. Although commodity-cost inflation has worsened over the last three months, the company backed its full-year earnings guidance, saying it will make incremental cost savings and overhead reductions. "We are gaining market share in a number of businesses and are launching additional product innovations to further improve our brands," said Chairman and Chief Executive Thomas J. Falk. "Although adjusted earnings per share were down slightly in the second quarter versus last year, we delivered sequential improvement in most key metrics." Kimberly-Clark, whose products include Huggies diapers, Scott paper towels and Kleenex tissues, is facing sharp cost increases for materials like wood pulp and fuel, while still battling tepid demand for its products, particularly in North America. The company has vowed to take aggressive actions, including raising prices on nearly all products sold in North America, making steeper overhead cuts and exiting the integrated pulp manufacturing business. Kimberly-Clark reported a profit of $408 million, or $1.03 a share, down from $498 million, or $1.20 a share, a year earlier. Excluding items such as restructuring charges, earnings fell to $1.18 in the most recent quarter. Sales jumped 8.3% to $5.26 billion. Analysts polled by Thomson Reuters had most recently forecast earnings of $1.14 a share on revenue of $5.13 billion. Gross margin fell to 29.6% from 33.8%. Sales at the personal-care segment, the largest by revenue, rose 7% and consumer-tissue segment sales were up 9%. The smaller K-C Professional and health-care businesses saw sales increase 6% and 14%, respectively. Shares fell 0.8% to $67.35 in premarket trading. The stock has risen 6.7% over the past year. -By Melodie Warner, Dow Jones Newswires; 212-416-2283; melodie.warner@dowjones.com

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