February 16, 2017 / 12:40 PM / 6 months ago

UPDATE 3-Avon Ladies do not come a-knocking; shares tumble

* Adj. EPS $0.01 vs. est. $0.09

* Shares slide 18 pct to 6-month low

* Says about $120 mln in cost savings in 2016

By Richa Naidu

Feb 16 (Reuters) - Avon Products Inc reported fourth-quarter revenue and profit that missed estimates as the cosmetics maker failed once again to hold on to its "Avon Ladies", sending shares down to a more than six-month low on Thursday.

Revenue fell for the 21st straight quarter as the number of Avon Ladies - representatives who have sold the company's products door to door since it was founded in 1886 - declined across all markets.

Avon, whose brands include Skin-So-Soft and the Outspoken by Fergie fragrance line, has had patchy success in retaining these employees in recent years.

The company has also struggled for the past four years with changing consumers tastes and habits, raising concerns that its more than 130-year-old direct-selling model is outdated and unable to attract shoppers who want instant gratification.

Total revenue declined 2.4 percent to $1.57 billion, missing the average analyst estimate of $1.61 billion, according to Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S. On an adjusted basis, Avon earned 1 cent per share versus analysts' average estimate of 9 cents.

During a post-results conference call, Avon faced a barrage of questions from analysts expressing concerns about the health of the company, which reported lower quarterly revenue in all but one of its markets.

Analysts remarked that they didn't know how to model the company anymore and were worried about Avon's dwindling representative base.

In Europe, Middle East and Africa, revenue fell 7 percent, while it declined 10 percent in north Latin America, more than offsetting a 9 percent jump in revenue from south Latin America, Avon said.

Net loss attributable to the company narrowed to $10.7 million, or 4 cents per share, in the quarter ended Dec. 31, from $333.4 million, or 76 cents, a year earlier. The year-ago period included a loss from discontinued operations of $317.1 million.

Avon announced a three-year turnaround plan in January 2016 to cut $350 million in costs, invest in technology and tap social media to revive sales amid concerns that its direct-selling model is outdated.

The company said it realized about $120 million in cost savings last year and is on track to achieve the plans.

Shares in Avon, which have more than doubled in value since the company first announced the turnaround on Jan. 21, 2016, fell nearly 19 percent in late-morning trading. (Reporting by Richa Naidu in Bengaluru; Editing by Martina D'Couto)

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