Executive Business Briefing

Sept. 3, 2002 at 9:37 AM
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Here is a look at more of Tuesday's top business stories:

Avon comfortable earnings outlook

NEW YORK, Sept. 3 (UPI) -- Beauty products retailer Avon Products Inc., citing strong sales and profit growth in the U.S and strong local currency results in its international operations, reaffirmed its third-quarter and full-year earnings outlook.

The company said it remains comfortable with Wall Street's consensus estimate for earnings per share of 47 cents in the third quarter, compared with 44 cents per share in the third quarter of last year, before unusual items in both periods.

In the third quarter of this year, Avon expects to record a special charge related to its business transformation initiatives.

The company said the charge is likely to be smaller than originally planned and is now estimated to be in the range of $40 million to $60 million pretax, or 10 to 20 cents per share.

Avon said no additional special charges are anticipated for the company to achieve its targeted 250 basis-point increase in operating margin from business transformation by the end of 2004.

In last year's third quarter, unusual items increased earnings by 4 cents per share to 48 cents per share.

For full-year 2002, Avon said it is on track to achieve its previously stated target of double-digit earnings growth, or $2.30 per share, compared with $2.09 per share in 2001, before unusual items in both years.

In 2001, unusual items reduced earnings by 24 cents per share to $1.85 per share.

Avon said local currency sales in the third quarter should be up double digits, on top of the very strong 12 percent increase in last year's third quarter.

The company said sales growth is being driven by double-digit increases in both units and active representatives, with all geographic regions posting solid gains.

Dollar-denominated sales are expected to be up approximately 2 percent in the quarter, after the effects of foreign currency translation.

Avon said its operating profit in the third quarter is expected to increase at a mid-to-high teens percentage rate in local currencies and at a mid-single-digit rate in dollars. Operating margin should increase approximately 30 basis points from last year's record level of 12.6 percent, and gross margin is forecast to increase approximately 60 basis points.

Avon also said cash flow from operations continues to be strong, reflecting ongoing inventory improvements. The company is on track to generate its targeted $500 million-$550 million in cash flow for the full year, even after its plan to make a larger-than-anticipated cash contribution of approximately $75 million to its employee pension plan in the third quarter. An additional contribution to the pension plan is possible in the fourth quarter, the company said.

Andrea Jung, chairman and chief executive officer, said, "The underlying strength of our global direct selling operations is continuing. The U.S. business should deliver another quarter of outstanding results, demonstrating that our largest developed market can achieve sustained, impressive growth.

"In addition, Europe and Asia each are posting double-digit profit increases, while in Latin America, robust local currency results in most markets are helping to offset weakness in Argentina," Jung said.

Avon is scheduled to report its third quarter results on Oct. 18.

Colgate-Palmolive reaffirms earnings outlook

NEW YORK, Sept. 3 (UPI) -- Colgate-Palmolive reaffirmed its earnings outlook for the third quarter and full-year.

The company, which makes a wide variety of consumer products including Colgate toothpaste, Palmolive dish soap and Ajax cleaner, was expected by analysts on Wall Street analysts to earn 57 cents a share in the third quarter and $2.18 for all of 2002, according to Thomson First Call.

Colgate said in April that it agreed with the consensus estimates compiled by First Call.

The company posted a net income of 49 cents a share in the second quarter on sales of about $2.2 billion. It earned $1.91 a share for all of 2001.

IBM buys Access360

AUSTIN, Texas, Sept. 3 (UPI) -- International Business Machines Corp. said it has entered into an agreement to acquire Access360.

Financial terms of the deal were not disclosed.

Access360 is a privately held provider of identity management software based in Irvine, Calif.

The deal is subject to regulatory approval and is expected to close in the beginning of the fourth quarter 2002.

The planned acquisition strengthens IBM's Tivoli software offerings in identity management, a fast-growing segment of security management software.

When completed, Access360 will become part of IBM Software Group and integrated into the Tivoli software portfolio.

Robert LeBlanc, general manager, Tivoli Software, IBM, said, "Customers are aggressively investing in identity management software to control the explosion in user populations as they extend their business beyond the firewall and through emerging Web technologies.

"By merging the talent and technology of the Access360 and Tivoli software team, IBM can bring an integrated identity management solution with autonomic capabilities to our customers faster," LeBlanc said.

Stilwell Financial to combine operations

DENVER, Sept. 3 (UPI) -- Stilwell Financial Inc. said it will combine all of its operations under the banner of its flagship Janus Capital Management mutual fund unit.

Stilwell also named a long-time insider to head the merged firm.

The combined company will be led by Mark Whiston, who will become chief executive officer on Dec. 31, when the combination is completed.

An 11-year Janus veteran, Whiston currently serves as president of retail and institutional services.

Stilwell, which owns about 92 percent of Janus, has been seeking a CEO for the business since Janus founder Tom Bailey stepped down on July 1 after selling his remaining stake in Janus last year.

The combined firm will be headquartered in Denver, where Janus is based.

Stilwell Financial also said it had about $150 billion in assets under management at the end of August.

Stilwell said assets under management for the past two months averaged approximately $150 billion. Preliminary average assets under management for the eight months ended August 31 totaled approximately $175 billion.

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