Tuesday September 11, 2012
by Tom Slee, contributing editor Gordon Pape's Internet Wealth Builder
One company that I have no hesitation in recommending is Estee Lauder Inc. (EL). The big story here is that new CEO Fabrizio Freda is successfully firing up the organization.
This leading manufacturer and marketer of makeup, fragrance, and hair care products is on a roll. The firm earned $2.27 a share for the year ending June 30, up 23% from 2011.
Trumpeted as "Estee Lauder's Makeover Man", Mr. Freda was brought in three years ago to shake up the company after three generations of family rule. It was a bold move, and so far it's paying off in spades.
New York-based company reports its results on a regional basis and at present the Americas account for 43% of sales and 22% of profits. Europe, the Middle East, and Africa account for 37% and 55% while the Asia/Pacific contributes 20% and 23%.
Incorporated in 1946, the company has successfully introduced and marketed a stream of new products including Clinique and Aramis. Tommy Hilfiger's fragrances are produced in conjunction with Estee Lauder.
In 2008, though, the company stumbled badly when the financial crash undermined consumer spending. People were no longer inclined to buy $900 skin care creams.
At the same time, department store chain mergers drastically reduced Lauder's outlets. Profits plunged and chairman William Lauder went outside the tightly-knit family to hire Mr. Freda, a marketing executive with experience at Proctor & Gamble and Gucci.
Soon after, a cadre of senior managers left the company and new policies were introduced. The numbers started to improve.
Going forward, Mr. Freda intends to focus on the Asia/Pacific business. China in particular offers a great deal of potential as its population adopts North American styles and habits. At the moment, Chinese women spend $19 per capital on beauty products compared to $229 in the U.S.
What I really like about the new program, however, is that it's not just a gung-ho marketing campaign.
Controls are being tightened and the overall operating margin has increased to a record 14.2%. Free cash flow reached an all time high of $1.1 billion in the year just ended.
Management is forecasting $10.5 billion in revenues in 2013 compared to $9.7 billion this year. We could see earnings of $2.75 a share or more in 2013.
Action now: Estee Lauder is a Buy at $61 with a target of $72.
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