Reporting record fourth-quarter earnings, the company said its net income--excluding charges--increased to $527.5 million, a 10% earnings-per-share increase. During the fourth quarter of 2007, net income was $490.7 million.
The company grew its North American sales by 1.5% to a record level in the fourth quarter, although unit volume declined 3.5%. Colgate-Palmolive's operating profit in North America increased 5% during the quarter to an all-time record level.
New-product launches for categories including toothpaste, manual toothbrushes, power toothbrushes, liquid hand soap, hand dish liquid and fabric conditioner built market share. Last year, the company launched Colgate Total Advanced Clean and Colgate Total Advanced Whitening toothpastes with ad campaigns starring Brooke Shields and grassroots efforts such as sampling programs.
The company said several dental-care products hit market-share records last year: Colgate Total toothpaste reached 16% of the market, and Colgate Max Fresh toothpaste reached a record 4.1% share for the year. Colgate said its U.S. share of the manual toothbrush market reached a record 27.1% for the year--up 1.5 share points versus a year ago--because of Colgate 360°, Colgate 360° Sensitive and new Colgate 360° Deep Clean manual toothbrushes.
In the first quarter of this year, the company will launch Colgate Max White and Colgate Sensitive Enamel Protect toothpastes, Palmolive Aroma Sensations hand dish liquid, Softsoap Ensembles liquid hand soap, Speed Stick Pro and Lady Speed Stick Spa deodorants and Colgate Max White manual toothbrush.
Worldwide, Colgate-Palmolive's sales grew half a percent last quarter to a record of nearly $3.7 billion, with sales volume increasing one percent, per the company. Although such factors as negative foreign exchange shaved Colgate's gross profit margin by a tenth of a percent to 56% last quarter, operating profit increased 2% to a record $800.9 million last quarter.
For the full year 2008, Colgate-Palmolive posted record worldwide sales of over $15.3 billion, an 11% increase versus 2007. Sales volume for the full year increased 11.5%.
Ian Cook, chairman, president and CEO, said in a corporate release that cost-cutting measures accounted for higher profit margins "despite difficult economic conditions worldwide."
Cook said new products in several categories are driving Colgate's market share gains domestically and worldwide. He added that Colgate's global toothpaste market share was at an all-time record high of 44.8%, led by share gains in the United States, Mexico, Brazil, Venezuela, Colombia, China, Russia, Germany and Australia. Also, per Cook, Colgate also increased global market share of traditional toothbrushes to 30%.
Cook predicts that easing commodity and oil prices will help the firm starting this quarter. "This, coupled with higher pricing and our ongoing aggressive savings programs, should offset the expected impact of the stronger dollar and indicates that the gross profit margin for full-year 2009 should be up nicely versus 2008," he said.