P&G's Slow-Growing Brands - Candidates for Spin-Off ?

17 January 2008

CINCINATTI: Procter & Gamble, the planet's largest advertiser, has reportedly begun the process of spinning-off its slower-growing brands. First off the starting block is said to be the Folgers coffee business - although neither the Cincinnati colossus nor its advisor Blackstone Group are willing to comment.

President/chairman/ceo Alan G Lafley, P&G's triple-hatted helmsman, who has steered the company since 2000, has progressively sold most of its food businesses - among them Jif peanut butter, Crisco shortening and Sunny Delight orange drink.

According to the Wall Street Journal, he is now set to pursue a more tax-efficient strategy of spinning-off the firm's more languid brands.

Folgers, which has annual sales of around $2 billion (€1.37bn; £1.02bn) but meager annual growth of 2%-3%, will likely blaze the spin-off trail for other relatively slow-growth brands such as Duracell and Pringles.

A similar report also appeared on the Financial Times website. So is it true? Says a spokesman for P&G loftily: "We don't comment or speculate on rumors."

But, as ever, the entrail-rakers of Wall Street are only too happy to speculate on rumors. Bear Stearns analyst Justin Hott, for example.

Shedding Folgers isn't likely to significantly boost P&G's stock, he believes. "It isn't a bad business, but coffee just isn't one of the high-growth businesses investors are looking for."

But he thinks investors will likely welcome P&G's efforts to trade slower-growth businesses for higher-growth alternatives. Notably beauty products, where there has been wildfire innovation.

Data sourced from Wall Street Journal Online; additional content by WARC staff