August 13, 2019 / 7:55 AM / 7 days ago

Henkel cuts outlook after weakest quarterly sales in decade

BERLIN (Reuters) - Henkel lowered its full-year outlook on Tuesday after posting its first fall in sales in a decade as the popularity of its beauty products waned and weaker industrial production hit its adhesives business.

FILE PHOTO: A logo of consumer goods group Henkel is pictured before its annual news conference in Duesseldorf March 8, 2012. REUTERS/Ina Fassbender

The German consumer goods company has underperformed rivals such as Procter & Gamble Co (P&G) and Unilever in recent years. It warned in January that earnings would fall as it ramps up marketing to try to revive growth.

The maker of Schwarzkopf shampoo, Persil detergent, Dial soap and Loctite glue said second-quarter sales fell by a like-for-like 0.4% to 5.121 billion euros ($5.73 billion), the weakest since the third quarter of 2009, while earnings per share dropped 9.5% to 1.43 euros - both below average analyst forecasts.

“Could it get any worse? It just did,” said Bernstein analyst Andrew Wood. “All businesses missed expectations and saw medium-term or long-term lows.”

Analysts have suggested Henkel should consider selling or spinning off its struggling beauty business but the founding family that owns the majority of shares is seen as unlikely to take such a radical step.

Henkel’s shares were trading 6.1% lower at 0854 GMT.

Chief Executive Hans van Bylen said Henkel was hit by a significant fall in demand from key industries like the automotive and electronics sectors and it no longer expected industrial demand to pick up in the second half of the year.

Sales at the adhesives unit, which account for almost half of total sales, fell by an underlying 1.2%, which Van Bylen described as a “robust” performance given the weaker market, helped by its offerings for the aerospace and paper industries.

Sales of beauty care fell 2.4%, sagging in western Europe and North America, and hit by stock issues in China, although the professional haircare business kept growing strongly.

Earlier this month, German rival Beiersdorf reported slowing sales growth for its Nivea skin care brand in the second quarter, but confirmed its outlook for full-year group sales growth of 3-5%.

CURRENT WOES

Van Bylen, a Belgian who previously led Henkel’s beauty care business, took over as CEO in 2016, replacing Kasper Rorsted, who moved to become chief executive of sportswear maker Adidas.

During Rorsted’s eight years at the helm, Henkel’s share price soared as the Dane cut costs and drove up profits. However, some analysts suggest he pared marketing too much, paving the way for the firm’s current troubles.

Van Bylen said there were signs of improvement in European haircare after moves to revive brands and launch new ones like Nature Box shampoo, which he said was doing well in Germany.

The group has also seen strong growth for Got2b styling products although Dial body care is still struggling in North America.

Henkel said it now expects organic sales growth, stripping out the impact of currencies and acquisitions, of between zero and 2% for fiscal year 2019, down from 2-4% previously, with the adhesive unit showing growth of -1 to 1% and beauty care between 0 and -2%.

The adhesive business should benefit from lower materials prices in the second half, finance chief Carsten Knobel told analysts.

The laundry and home care division is still expected to grow 2-4% in the full year after expanding 2% in the second-quarter, helped by a global relaunch of Persil detergent and a drive to sell more online-friendly products.

Persil’s U.S. market share is currently stable and should get a boost from the launch of single dose capsules, Van Bylen said.

Henkel forecast adjusted earnings per preferred share (EPS) to fall by a mid- to high single-digit percentage at constant exchange rates, down from a previous outlook for a fall of a mid-single-digit percentage range.

($1 = 0.8934 euros)

Reporting by Emma Thomasson; Editing by Michelle Martin and Kirsten Donovan

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