Estee Lauder gets a makeover

A new CEO is shaking up operations at the cosmetics company.

By TheStockAdvisors Sep 12, 2012 1:59PM
Lipstick, copyright Stockbyte, PictureQuestBy Tom Slee, Internet Wealth Builder

One company that I have no hesitation in recommending is Estee Lauder Inc. (EL). The big story here is that new CEO Fabrizio Freda is successfully firing up the organization.

This leading manufacturer and marketer of makeup, fragrance, and hair care products is on a roll. The company earned $2.27 a share for the year ending June 30, up 23% from 2011.

Trumpeted as "Estee Lauder's Makeover Man," Mr. Freda was brought in three years ago to shake up the company after three generations of family rule. It was a bold move -- and so far it's paying off in spades.

New York company reports its results on a regional basis and at present the Americas account for 43% of sales and 22% of profits. Europe, the Middle East, and Africa account for 37% and 55% while the Asia/Pacific contributes 20% and 23%. 

Incorporated in 1946, the company has successfully introduced and marketed a stream of new products including Clinique and Aramis. Tommy Hilfiger's fragrances are produced in conjunction with Estee Lauder.

In 2008, however, the company stumbled badly when the financial crash undermined consumer spending. People were reluctant to buy expensive skin care creams.

At the same time, department store chain mergers drastically reduced Lauder's outlets. Profits plunged and chairman William Lauder went outside the tightly knit family to hire Freda, a marketing executive with experience at Proctor & Gamble and Gucci.

Soon after, a cadre of senior managers left the company and new policies were introduced. The numbers started to improve.

Going forward, Freda intends to focus on the Asia/Pacific business. China, in particular, offers a great deal of potential as its population adopts North American styles and habits. At the moment, Chinese women spend $19 per capita on beauty products compared to $229 in the U.S.

What I really like about the new program, however, is that it's not just a gung-ho marketing campaign. Controls are being tightened and the overall operating margin has increased to a record 14.2%. Free cash flow reached an all-time high of $1.1 billion in the year just ended.

Management is forecasting $10.5 billion in revenues in 2013 compared to $9.7 billion this year. We could see earnings of $2.75 a share or more in 2013.

Action now: Estee Lauder is a "buy" under $61 with a target of $72.

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Sep 13, 2012 4:08PM

I love Estee Lauder products.  No one (believe me, I've tried most of them) makes better eye shadows, pencils, and lipsticks..  Had a makeover at their Lord & Taylor counter in the Garden State Plaza, and it was more of a makeup consultancy than the usual sales number other companies provide.  They deserve every bit of this success!


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