Earnings Preview: Newell Rubbermaid Income May Ease Slightly

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While Newell Rubbermaid Inc. (NYSE: NWL), maker of Sharpie markers and Rubbermaid products, is expected to report slightly lower third-quarter earnings due to sluggish summer sales, analysts are optimistic the company will meet its full-year guidance of 2 percent to 3 percent gains.

Last month, the Atlanta-based maker of all kinds of household and commercial goods repeated that forecast. Indicators that sales of new homes are increasing and a general economic recovery is underway should mean that families will buy its Rubbermaid dish racks, garbage cans, Graco baby strollers and Calphalon gourmet kitchenware, as well as its stationery products like Waterman and Parker pens.

This reliable dividend payer of a 10-cent quarterly dividend and darling of institutional investors regularly beats earnings forecasts. This quarter is expected to be no different.

The company is expected to earn $130 million, or 44 cents per share, compared with $132 million, or 45 cents, a year ago, according to a Thomson Reuters analyst poll. Revenue is expected to be essentially flat at $1.54 billion.

Results beat the estimates in the past four quarters and reported gains in three of them.

But the company was hit in the second quarter with higher tax expenses and a small reduction in sales. Income fell 23 percent to $111.8 million, or 38 cents per share, but analysts had expected Newell Rubbermaid to do worse because of a slowdown in consumer spending over the summer.

The company’s core consumer products business has continued strong, and its baby and parenting operations, which represent 12 percent of the company’s sales, has been progressing smartly; it recently announced a line of new Graco parenting products for major retailers like Babies "R" Us in North America and Japan.

Last week, Bank of America/Merrill Lynch added Newell to its US1 list of top picks of U.S.-based companies, setting a $24 price target, citing the company’s cash flow, which it said last month would remain unchanged at between $550 million and $600 million for the full year. It expects capital expenditures of $200 million to $225 million for the year.  

The company’s stock price gained 95 cents, or 5.24 percent, in the third quarter. It has been trading at around its 52-week high since early September.

The company made three key corporate appointments in the third quarter.

Ignacio Perez Lizaur was elected a director. A former Wal-Mart Stores Inc. (NYSE: WMT) executive, Lizaur brings international experience to Newell as it tries to expand into emerging markets. At Wal-Mart, the No. 1 retailer that stocks many Newell Rubbermaid products, Lizaur oversaw the company’s first international venture in 1991 as head of Sam’s Club Mexico. He also led Wal-Mart operations in six Latin American countries and Puerto Rico.

Newell also established a new position of chief design and research and development officer and hired Charles L. Jones, who has won several international design awards for his work at Whirlpool Corporation (NYSE: WHR).

Douglas Martin, who has been with Newell since 1987, was also named executive vice president and chief financial officer, bringing to the position legacy knowledge of the company.

Shares of Newell Rubbermaid slipped 9 cents Thursday in midday trading to $20.17. They've gained 25 percent this year and nearly 50 percent in the past 52 weeks.

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