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Procter & Gamble sticks by forecasts; profit meets expectations

By Jessica Wohl

(Reuters) - Procter & Gamble Co is chugging along with its turnaround, posting a quarterly profit that met Wall Street's expectations and holding to its annual forecasts as the world's largest household products maker gets a lift from cost cuts and a lower tax rate.

Shares of P&G fell nearly 1 percent to $79.93 in morning trading on Friday.

The maker of Pampers diapers and Tide detergent is trying to reinvigorate itself under Chief Executive Officer A.G. Lafley, who returned in late May to replace Bob McDonald.

Lafley, who did not speak on the company's conference call on Friday, has previously said the current fiscal 2014 would be a "transition" year, after the "stepping stone" year that ended in June. He has already split P&G into four businesses, hoping the new structure will boost efficiency.

"We continue to think the appointment of Lafley is more temporary in nature, until a permanent successor can be named," said Morningstar analyst Erin Lash. She said she was "a bit perplexed" by P&G's decision to have Lafley participate only on certain calls and at major industry conferences as the company works to "instill confidence and reignite its momentum."

P&G said it still expected 5 percent to 7 percent growth in earnings per share this fiscal year, excluding restructuring charges. The company abandoned quarterly forecasts earlier this year.

It still expects organic sales, which strip out the impact of currency changes, acquisitions and divestitures, to rise 3 percent to 4 percent this fiscal year.

Regarding Lafley's absence from the call, a P&G spokesman Paul Fox said: "This change reflects our focus on annual results and trends rather than quarterly results and is consistent with our recent move to fiscal guidance."

SHAMPOO SHOWDOWN

P&G held or increased market share in businesses that represent about two-thirds of its sales during the quarter, Chief Financial Officer Jon Moeller said. While he said he was "reasonably happy" with the results, he added: "We simply have to execute better, more consistently and more reliably."

P&G competes against a variety of companies, including Unilever Plc . On Thursday, Unilever's results suggested that its North American market share in the high-margin personal care business suffered because of promotions that P&G ran on its hair care products such as Pantene shampoo.

However, Moeller refuted such assertions, saying that P&G's hair care product promotions were down from a year earlier. The company's market share in the category was flat.

Colgate-Palmolive Co also discussed a more promotional U.S. market when it released its results on Thursday.

"We see a different reality," Moeller told reporters. "Promotion is important, and we will be competitive in our promotional activities, but it is not an area where we seek to lead."

In North America overall, P&G's share of the volume of goods that were sold on promotions was down 7 percent from a year earlier, Moeller said.

P&G said it had earned $3.03 billion, or $1.04 per share, in the first quarter ended on September 30, up from $2.81 billion, or 96 cents per share, a year earlier.

Core earnings per share, which exclude restructuring charges, fell 1 percent to $1.05 and met analysts' expectations, according to Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S.

Sales rose 2.2 percent to $21.21 billion, topping Wall Street's forecast of $21.04 billion.

Organic sales rose 4 percent. Such sales were up in every category except healthcare, where they were flat, due in part to a pet food recall.

The beauty business was a disappointment, with organic sales growth of just 1 percent, analysts said. P&G blamed the sluggish growth on factors such as a decrease in skin care product sales.

JPMorgan analyst John Faucher said he had expected 3 percent organic sales growth in the beauty division.

(Reporting by Jessica Wohl in Chicago; Editing by Lisa Von Ahn)

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