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EARNINGS PREVIEW: Consumer-Products Companies Fight For Market Share Amid Price Wars

By Melodie Warner TAKING THE PULSE: All the big consumer-products companies are struggling to defend their market share as more shoppers trade down from more expensive, name-brand labels to the cheaper private-label alternatives offered by grocery stores. The battle plans include rolling out more discounts and coupons, and increasing advertising budgets. Competitors' lower prices have cut into Procter & Gamble Co.'s (PG) business, prompting the world's largest consumer-products company to lower its earnings guidance for the fiscal fourth quarter and fiscal 2013. Investors will be looking to see how the other consumer-products deal with softness in developed markets and the negative impact from foreign exchange rates. P&G may be more sensitive to the global economic slowdown than its competitors because its products are pricier. COMPANIES TO WATCH: Coca-Cola Co. (KO) - reports July 17 Wall Street Expectations: Analysts polled by Thomson Reuters recently expected a profit of $1.19 a share on $13 billion in revenue, compared with $1.17 a share and $12.74 billion, respectively, a year earlier. Key Issues: The company's namesake soda and Diet Coke have been the first and second-best-selling beverage in the U.S. over the past year. But results have been challenged as Americans continue to reduce their soft-drink consumption. The company has plans to plow annual cost savings back into the marketing of its brands, and Coke announced last month that it and its bottling partners will invest $5 billion in India by 2020. Despite the slowdown close to home, Coke has continued to grow worldwide sales and volume with the help of gains in India, as well as developed markets like Germany, Japan and Spain. PepsiCo Inc. (PEP) - reports July 25 Wall Street Expectations: Analysts forecast a profit of $1.10 a share on $16.74 billion in revenue, compared with $1.21 a share and $16.83 billion, respectively, a year earlier. Key Issues: The food and beverage company has said it won't turn to discounts in order to sell more soda. Pepsi has fallen further behind rival Coca-Cola in recent years, and it hopes a beefed-up marketing campaign can help turn around its business. The company also plans to lean on new products--like its mid-calorie soda Pepsi Next--to try to grow its U.S. market share. Meanwhile, its snacks continue to perform well. Worldwide snack revenue grew 7% in the first quarter, but beverage sales expanded just 2%. Procter & Gamble Co. (PG) - reports Aug. 3 Wall Street Expectations: Analysts forecast a profit of 77 cents a share on $20.25 billion in revenue, compared with 84 cents a share and $20.86 billion, respectively, a year earlier. Key Issues: The consumer-products giant warned that sales and profits will be lower than expected last month, as it continues to lose market share and struggles to manage pricing and rising commodity costs. P&G said its fiscal fourth-quarter sales likely fell by 1% to 2% from a year earlier, compared with its previous forecast of 1% to 2% growth. The company also forecast core earnings between 75 cents and 79 cents a share, down from a previously expected range of 79 cents to 85 cents. Kraft Foods Inc. (KFT) - date to be announced Wall Street Expectations: Analysts forecast a profit of 66 cents a share on $14.07 billion in revenue, compared with 62 cents a share and $13.9 billion, respectively, a year earlier. Key Issues: The food company has said it will use ongoing cost savings to invest in marketing and the rollout of new products, rather than discounting. Kraft has been able to raise prices with greater success than most packaged-food companies, helping it to turn in better profits despite rising commodity costs. But the higher prices have contributed to Kraft losing market share in some of its North America and developing markets categories. Yet it held or gained share in nearly two-thirds of categories in Europe during the first quarter. (The Thomson Reuters financial estimates and year-earlier figures may not be comparable due to one-time items and other adjustments.) Write to Melodie Warner at [email protected]

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