As the markets get ready to finish a volatile month, I’d like to discuss the outlook of Procter & Gamble (NYSE:PG), the consumer-goods titan, whose shareholders have had a great year. Over the past 12 months, PG stock is up over 40%.
Although I would not bet against Procter & Gamble stock in the long-term, I do not find PG stock a compelling buy at its current prices. I expect PG to undergo volatility and possibly weakness in June. Despite the many catalysts that make the shares an important part of a diversified portfolio, the company also faces several short-term risks. Here are the most important things that investors should know about Procter & Gamble stock.
Procter & Gamble Has Strong Brands
Many consumer-staples companies have famous brands and robust fundamentals. I’view PG as one of the best consumer-staple names. Founded in 1837, the company is one of the largest manufacturers, distributors, and advertisers of consumer goods globally.
The company has five main segments:
- Health Care,
- Fabric & Home Care,
- Baby, Feminine & Family Care.
With its extensive product portfolio, it covers all the basic needs of consumers. On a given day, the average U.S. (and global) household is likely to use many of its brands, including Tide, Bounty, Downy, Pampers, Always, Charmin, Swiffer, Head & Shoulders, Crest, and Gilette.
The strength of Procter & Gamble’s brands is helping it achieve broad geographic reach and the benefits of large size in this competitive industry.
PG Stock Benefits From Robust Earnings
PG’s fiscal third-quarter results, announced on Apr. 23 ,showed that its sales growth sped up, as its organic sales increased 5%. Chief Financial Officer Jon Moeller highlighted the quarter as the “third quarter in a row of very strong volume, sales, consumption and market share growth being driven by a strategy of superiority.”
Global annual revenue is over $66 billion and almost two dozen of its brands have annual sales of over $1 billion. Because these products have high margins, PG’s return on capital employed (ROCE), a profitability ratio measuring how efficiently a company can generate profits, has been about 16%, which is viewed as healthy.
The company has achieved those numbers through both organic growth and acquisitions. For example, the power of its brands enables Procter & Gamble to raise its prices without sacrificing a great deal of sales volume.
Furthermore, over the past three years, Procter & Gamble has completed seven acquisitions. For example, in Dec. 2018, it finalized a $4.2 billion deal to purchase Germany-based Merck KGaA’s Consumer Health business. PG said that the deal would help it expand its portfolio of consumer-healthcare products. The acquisition has increased PG’s exposure to Asian and Latin American markets.
Finally, Procter & Gamble’s AA credit rating is possibly one of the best testaments of the company’s fundamental strength.
Procter & Gamble Stock Creates Shareholder Value
Analysts have highlighted Procter & Gamble’s improved margins, helped by cost-cutting across the company. Over the past few years, management has reshaped the company’s portfolio to better serve changing consumer trends and spending habits.
Dividends should play an important part in long-term investments. As a dividend aristocrat, Procter & Gamble stock is a favorite among income investors.
PG’s dividend yield is almost 2.9%. Its robust free cash flow will probably enable it to further increase its dividends in coming years. The company has raised its dividend every year since 1957. Over the past decade, PG’s dividend has jumped over 60%.
PG Stock May Not Be Immune to the U.S.-China Trade Wars
Although it may not be one of the first stocks most investors think of when assessing the potential impact of the U.S.-China trade wars, Procter & Gamble stock is likely to be adversely affected by increased tariffs. In 2018, PG’s management reported that tariff increases would raise the cost of making many of its products.
PG relies on China for many parts and materials, such as pipes, tanks, and containers, that are used to manufacture and package its brands.
As tariffs rise, PG would either have to increase its prices or absorb the costs. Increasing prices could hurt its sales, while absorbing higher costs would undermine its profitability. Either way, there would likely be downward pressure on PG stock.
In April, even before trade-war tensions began intensifying, PG CEO David Taylor stressed that the company faced “a challenging competitive and macroeconomic environment.” The rhetoric on tariffs won’t ease the headwinds that Taylor described or the pressure they put on PG stock price.
Is the Valuation of PG Stock Becoming Stretched?
Wall Street has been voicing concerns about the rich valuation of PG stock. InvestorPlace columnist Luke Lango recently analyzed why investors may want to pay close attention to various metrics which indicate that the valuation of Procter & Gamble stock has become stretched.
Furthermore rising commodity costs have been impacting the entire consumer-staples sector in the past few months. For example, prices for inputs like plastic, paper, and oil have been rising. Indeed in Oct. 2018, PG blamed rising costs for price increases it levied on many of its brands.
Therefore, the owners of PG stock may want to assess the company’s sales volumes when it reports its earnings in late July and October, in order to see if they are being adversely affected by the price hikes.
If PG’s volumes stay flat or fall, then more analysts may begin to find the current valuation levels of PG stock rather high, resulting in downgrades of PG stock. In 2018, a number of analysts downgraded Procter & Gamble stock due to rising commodity costs and price pressures that affected every segment of the company.
Should Investors Buy PG Stock in June?
At PG’s current levels, I would not buy PG stock. Procter & Gamble stock has many long-term growth catalysts. However, PG is facing shorter-term risks which are likely to push down PG stock price and deflate its valuation.
Furthermore, as a result of the recent impressive rise of PG stock over the past year, its short-term technical indicators have become somewhat overextended. Investors who pay attention to short-term oscillators should note that Procter & Gamble stock has become “overbought.”
So, in the next few weeks, PG stock may be negatively impacted by profit-taking. Investors may want to wait for a better time to buy PG stock, such as when the share price is around $90.
Finally, investors who are thinking of buying PG may also want to pay attention to upcoming earnings releases by PG’s peers, including Colgate-Palmolive (NYSE:CL), Kimberly Clark (NYSE:KMB), and Clorox (NYSE:CLX). Any weakness in their reports will likely put downward pressure on Procter & Gamble stock.
As of this writing, Tezcan Gecgil did not hold a position in any of the aforementioned securities.