Deep cost savings helped boost annual profits at US consumer goods giant Kimberley Clark (KMB), despite headline sales falling due to the strength of the dollar.
The Kleenex and Andrex owner announced that full-year sales were down 2% to US$18.2bn in 2016, hit by foreign currency exchange rates that reduced sales by around 4%. Volume growth helped boost organic sales by 2%.
Operating profit jumped up to $3.3bn from $1.6bn in 2015, though this performance was distorted by $1.4bn of pension settlement charges the group took in 2015 and $153m of exceptional charges related to its Venezuelan operations.
Adjusted operating profit was up 4% despite a $90m hit from currencies, as earnings were boosted by organic sales growth and $435m of cost savings (in addition to $70m of savings from its 2014 restructuring).
Sales of $4.5bn in the final quarter of the year 2016 were even with the year-ago period as organic sales were up 1% and volumes grew 2%, but currencies and net selling prices dragged back this growth.
Its personal care division saw fourth quarter sales increase by 1% to $2.2bn, while its consumer tissue segment saw sales drop 1% to $1.5bn.
Fourth quarter operating profit was $839m, up from $630m.
Chairman and CEO Thomas Falk commented: “Our full-year results were consistent with our previous outlook. While we experienced a challenging economic and competitive environment in 2016, our market share positions remained broadly healthy.
“We also achieved record cost savings, which helped us improve our margins and deliver bottom-line earnings in line with our guidance for the year. In addition, we generated strong cash flow and returned $2.1 billion to shareholders through dividends and share repurchases.”
The company stated that net sales in 2017 are expected to be similar to 2016, including organic sales growth of approximately 2%.
Falk added: “Looking to 2017, we will execute our ‘global business plan’ strategies in what we expect will be a continued difficult environment. Our teams will invest in innovation, marketing and targeted growth initiatives to keep our brands strong and help us compete effectively. We will also continue to manage our company with financial discipline, with a focus on cost savings, cash flow and shareholder-friendly capital allocation.
“We remain optimistic about our opportunities to create long-term shareholder value.”
Shares were up 4.1% on the 2016 performance – and the 5.4% increase in the quarterly dividend – to $121.79.