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Edited Transcript of KMB earnings conference call or presentation 22-Apr-19 2:00pm GMT

Q1 2019 Kimberly-Clark Corp Earnings Call

DALLAS Apr 23, 2019 (Thomson StreetEvents) -- Edited Transcript of Kimberly-Clark Corp earnings conference call or presentation Monday, April 22, 2019 at 2:00:00pm GMT

TEXT version of Transcript

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Corporate Participants

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* Maria G. Henry

Kimberly-Clark Corporation - Senior VP & CFO

* Michael D. Hsu

Kimberly-Clark Corporation - CEO & Director

* Paul J. Alexander

Kimberly-Clark Corporation - VP of IR

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Conference Call Participants

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* Ali Dibadj

Sanford C. Bernstein & Co., LLC., Research Division - SVP and Senior Analyst

* Andrea Faria Teixeira

JP Morgan Chase & Co, Research Division - MD

* Bonnie Lee Herzog

Wells Fargo Securities, LLC, Research Division - MD and Senior Beverage & Tobacco Analyst

* Caroline Shan Levy

Macquarie Research - Senior Analyst

* Cody T. Ross

Goldman Sachs Group Inc., Research Division - Associate

* Herbert John Eppich

Jefferies LLC, Research Division - Equity Associate

* Jonathan Patrick Feeney

Consumer Edge Research, LLC - Senior Analyst of Food & HPC, Director of research and Managing Partner

* Lauren Rae Lieberman

Barclays Bank PLC, Research Division - MD & Senior Research Analyst

* Olivia Tong

BofA Merrill Lynch, Research Division - Director

* Stephen Robert R. Powers

Deutsche Bank AG, Research Division - Research Analyst

* Steven A. Strycula

UBS Investment Bank, Research Division - Director and Equity Research Analyst

* Sunil Harshad Modi

RBC Capital Markets, LLC, Research Division - MD of Tobacco, Household Products and Beverages

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Presentation

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Operator [1]

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Ladies and gentlemen, thank you for your patience in holding. We now have your presenters in conference. (Operator Instructions)

It is now my pleasure to introduce today's first presenter, Mr. Paul Alexander.

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Paul J. Alexander, Kimberly-Clark Corporation - VP of IR [2]

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Thank you, and good morning, everyone. Welcome to Kimberly-Clark's first quarter earnings conference call.

With us today are Mike Hsu, our Chief Executive Officer; and Maria Henry, our CFO. Here's the agenda for our call. Maria will start with a review of first quarter results. After that, Mike will provide his perspectives on our results and the outlook for the full year. We'll finish, as usual, with Q&A. We have a presentation of today's materials in the Investors section of our website. As a reminder, we will be making forward-looking statements today. Please see the Risk Factors section of our latest annual report on Form 10-K for further discussion of forward-looking statements. Finally, we'll be referring to adjusted results and outlook. Both exclude certain items described in this morning's news release. That release has further information about these adjustments and reconciliations to comparable GAAP financial measures.

And now I'll turn the call over to Maria.

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Maria G. Henry, Kimberly-Clark Corporation - Senior VP & CFO [3]

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Thanks, Paul, and good morning, everyone. Thanks for joining the call. Let me start with the headlines for the quarter. Organic sales increased 3% driven by higher net selling prices. Adjusted operating profit and earnings per share were down low single digits year-on-year. That said, we made solid progress with our margins compared to full year 2018 performance. Additionally, we're on track with our overall capital plan, and we continue to return cash to shareholders.

Now let's cover the details of our results starting with sales. Our first quarter net sales were $4.6 billion. That's down 2% year-on-year with a 5-point drag from currency rates. Organic sales were up 3%, which is a good start relative to our full year target for 2% growth. Net selling prices increased 4%, and product mix increased 1%, while volumes fell 2%. Mike will provide more color on our top line in just a few minutes.

Moving on to profitability. First quarter adjusted gross margin was 33.5%, down 30 basis points year-on-year. First quarter adjusted operating margin was 17.4%, even with a year ago. I'm encouraged that gross and operating margins were up 30 and 40 basis points, respectively, compared to full year 2018 levels. Commodities were a year-on-year drag of $135 million in the quarter. While that is still a meaningful amount, I was pleased to see market prices in North America for pulp, recycled fiber and polymer fall a bit sequentially. Foreign currencies were also a headwind, reducing operating profit by a low double-digit rate.

Our focus on achieving higher net selling prices offset much of the commodity and currency headwinds we faced in the quarter. We also generated solid cost savings of $115 million. That includes $55 million of FORCE savings, which was consistent with our plan; and $60 million of restructuring savings. On that, we continue to make good progress with our restructuring program. So far this year, we've announced the planned closure of 2 Personal Care facilities outside North America. We've now announced 6 of the approximate 10 facilities that we intend to close or sell.

Advertising spending was up in the quarter as we continue to support our brand. Even with that investment, total between-the-line spending was down 50 basis points to 16% of sales. The reduction was driven by our restructuring savings. Compared to the first quarter, I expect between-the-lines spending as a percent of sales to move up a bit for the full year. So all in all, adjusted operating profit was down 2%. On the bottom line, adjusted earnings per share were $1.66, down 3% year-on-year. That included an approximate 2% drag from higher tax rate essentially offset by a lower share count.

Let's turn to cash flow and capital efficiency. Cash provided by operations in the quarter was $317 million compared to $542 million in the year ago quarter. The decrease was generally in line with our expectations and driven by higher working capital and restructuring payments. Capital spending was $316 million in the quarter. As expected, that's up from $189 million in the year ago period and is driven by supply chain restructuring projects. We continue to allocate capital in shareholder-friendly ways. First quarter dividends and share repurchases totaled $510 million, and we continue to expect the full year amount will be between $2 billion and $2.3 billion.

Turning to our segments. In Personal Care, organic sales were up 5%. Net selling prices increased 2%, and volumes and product mix were each up more than 1 point. Personal Care operating margins were 21.3%, up 90 basis points year-on-year. The improvement was driven by organic sales growth and cost savings. In Consumer Tissue, organic sales were even with the year ago period. Net selling prices increased 6%, which was offset by lower volume. Consumer Tissue operating margins of 15.8% were even year-on-year. In K-C Professional, organic sales grew 3%. Selling prices rose 3% while a 1 point improvement in mix was offset by lower volumes. K-C Professional operating margins of 18.4% were down 60 basis points. Results were impacted by commodity inflation and currency headwinds partially offset by higher pricing and cost savings. So all in all, we're off to a solid start relative to our full year plan, and I'm encouraged by our progress.

I'll now turn the call over to Mike for his perspective on our results and outlook.

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Michael D. Hsu, Kimberly-Clark Corporation - CEO & Director [4]

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Okay. Thanks, Maria. Good morning, everyone.

I'm going to focus my comments on organic sales and our full year outlook. And let me start by saying I'm encouraged by our first quarter results. We're making strong progress realizing higher selling prices. We're launching innovations, investing in our brands and pursuing our growth priorities. And we're leveraging our strong financial discipline. As Maria just mentioned, we grew organic sales 3% in the first quarter, which is a good start to the year. Overall, our pricing initiatives are on track, and to date, the impact on our volumes has been reasonable.

Let me share some of the top line highlights for the quarter. Starting in developed markets, organic sales increased 1% in North America consumer products. In North American Personal Care, organic sales grew 3%. Volumes increased high single digits in adult care with benefits from innovations, increased brand investment and category growth. Volumes were up low single digits across our baby and child care portfolio. In the first quarter, we increased selling prices on Pull-Ups training pants and premium Huggies Diapers. Looking ahead, we have innovation on Poise pads coming this quarter and premium innovation on Huggies Diapers that are going to hit the market this summer.

In North American Consumer Tissue, organic sales were down 2% compared to a 5% increase last year that was driven by strong promotion activity. Net selling prices rose 7%. Our pricing plans are overall on track. We'll continue to monitor the impact on our volumes and competitive activity, but we remain focused and confident on realizing the benefits of the price increases.

In North American K-C Professional, organic sales increased 1% driven by solid price realization. Turning to developed markets outside North America. Organic sales were up 1%. In South Korea, while our diaper business continues to be impacted by a lower birth rate, our other businesses are growing and offsetting that diaper category's softness. We also had solid performance in Western and Central Europe in K-C Professional.

In developing and emerging markets, organic sales rose 7% overall, and that included nearly 3 points of growth from Argentina, which is consistent with our 2019 plan. In terms of our key Personal Care businesses, in Brazil, organic sales rose about 15% compared to a mid-single-digit increase in the base period. Growth was driven by higher selling prices, while category volume remains sluggish.

In China, organic sales were down high single digits. Huggies Diapers continues to be impacted by competitor price reductions that started last year. Nonetheless, volumes on our premium care Huggies were up driven by strong product innovation. In feminine care, we continue to grow at double-digit rates driven by our innovation, trade-up strategies and supported by strong digital marketing.

In ASEAN, organic sales rose about 10% with the strength on Huggies Diapers in Vietnam. We're rolling out improved Huggies in most ASEAN markets this year.

In Eastern Europe, organic sales increased about 20%, with volumes and selling prices both up nicely. Our momentum in this region reflects the combination of excellent sales execution, winning product innovation backed by great marketing. We're launching further innovations on Huggies and Kotex this year. While diapers remain our biggest business in D&E, I'm pleased that, in the first quarter, we grew organic sales double digits in fem care, adult care and baby wipes. These businesses have strong growth opportunity, and we're making progress.

Now in terms of digital marketing, we're using digital on many of our brands to help us build one-to-one consumer relationships. Digital is improving our marketing ROI and helping us grow in markets like fem care in China and South Korea, diapers in Vietnam, and adult care in North America. To summarize our top line, I'm optimistic about our start to the year. We have more work to do, and we continue to operate in a competitive environment. However, that said, I'm encouraged with our progress thus far.

Now moving beyond sales, I'll just build briefly on Maria's comments about margins. While we need to make more progress, I'm encouraged that first quarter performance was above our full year 2018 levels. Turning to the outlook. As we mentioned in this morning's news release, we're confirming our previous outlook for 2019, which calls for 2% organic sales growth and adjusted earnings per share of $6.50 to $6.70. We're also maintaining the key planning assumptions we outlined in January.

Our first quarter results have improved our earnings profile somewhat compared to our initial view of the year. That said, we still believe it's more likely that earnings are going to be somewhat higher in the second half of the year compared to the first half. Our teams have a lot to execute over the next 9 months, and we're going to continue to closely watch the overall environment. While we work to achieve our 2019 targets, we'll continue to pursue the longer-term balanced and sustainable growth opportunities that are all part of our K-C Strategy 2022. So in summary, we're off to a solid start for the year. We're confirming our full year outlook. And we're confident in our ability to create shareholder value.

That concludes our prepared remarks, and now we'd be happy to take your questions.

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Questions and Answers

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Operator [1]

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(Operator Instructions) Our first question comes from Jason English with Goldman Sachs.

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Cody T. Ross, Goldman Sachs Group Inc., Research Division - Associate [2]

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This is actually Cody on for Jason today. Can you provide us an update on your commodity outlook? Previously, you stated $300 million to $400 million of inflation. Does that still hold? And can you also provide details by each commodity like you did last quarter?

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Maria G. Henry, Kimberly-Clark Corporation - Senior VP & CFO [3]

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Sure. Cody, it's Maria. On commodities, we had $135 million of headwinds in the quarter driven by pulp and other materials. That was slightly better than our expectations for the quarter with some relief on resin-based materials and recycled fibers. Distribution also remains inflationary in the quarter. We are holding our outlook at this point to $300 million to $400 million of inflation for the year. It's early in the year. We're just through the first quarter. And while we're encouraged by the North America market prices that have started to come down sequentially in areas like polymer, resin, eucalyptus and recycled, it remains volatile, and we'll have to see how this plays out. And as we think about the P&L impact of the commodity changes, we have to think about commodity inflation in relationship to price when we look at the P&L holistically. If I cover them kind of piece by piece, if we look at fiber with eucalyptus, it was down 1% year-on-year and down 4% sequentially. And we're maintaining our outlook on eucalyptus for the year of $11.25 to $11.75 per metric ton for the full year average.

On NBSK, we were up low teens year-on-year, and we were down low single digits sequentially. And when I'm quoting these, I'm quoting the market prices in North America for these commodities. And then on fluff, we were up -- or the market was up high single digits year-on-year and down low single digits sequentially. On recycled fiber, those prices remained elevated. North America market was up more than 20%. However, it has fallen sequentially, was down about 10% on recycled. In terms of the oil-based commodities that we have on polymer, the first quarter average price was down mid-teens versus a year ago. We're expecting a modest increase in price in the back half of the year for polymer, so we'll have to see what happens there. On Superabsorbent, we were -- or the market was up high single digits versus year ago and relatively flat on a sequential basis. And finally, I'll point out that, outside of North America, inflation continues to run at moderate levels, particularly coming out of Latin America. So we're seeing some easing for the North America market prices. We still got inflation when you look at it outside of U.S. It's a very long answer. Hopefully, that covers all the details you were looking for on what we think about what the markets are doing.

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Cody T. Ross, Goldman Sachs Group Inc., Research Division - Associate [4]

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Yes, that's very helpful. If I can sneak in one more question related to your commodity cost. Your initial FY '19 outlook assumed $400 million to $450 million in cost savings with about $300 million to $325 million in FORCE. Does that still hold today? I assume it does based on your reiterated outlook. But if inflation proves to be less onerous than you initially thought, how should we think about your potential savings for FY '19 as the year progresses? Do you still expect to deliver at least $400 million in savings?

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Maria G. Henry, Kimberly-Clark Corporation - Senior VP & CFO [5]

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Yes. We do expect to continue to hold our -- to continue to deliver savings, and we are holding our estimate in terms of the savings outlook for the year. I think that as you watch commodities and commodity inflation, the 3 to watch together are what's happening with currencies, commodities and price when you think about the P&L. But the cost savings estimate remains unchanged.

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Cody T. Ross, Goldman Sachs Group Inc., Research Division - Associate [6]

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And I just want to make sure. That's unchanged even if commodities do roll over in greater FORCE than we thought?

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Maria G. Henry, Kimberly-Clark Corporation - Senior VP & CFO [7]

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Yes.

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Operator [8]

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Our next question comes from Lauren Lieberman with Barclays.

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Lauren Rae Lieberman, Barclays Bank PLC, Research Division - MD & Senior Research Analyst [9]

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I want to talk to something actually a little bit bigger picture was around innovation and news flow in the Personal Care categories, particularly in the U.S. I know, Mike, you mentioned that you've got innovation coming on Poise this quarter and something in Huggies over this summer. But I just -- the -- I feel like the pace of activity in these categories has dramatically stepped up, both from largest competitor, from Procter, but even from retailers and also all the upstart brands that seem to be gaining some traction. So could you just talk a little bit about how you're thinking about the right level of news flow and activity, your interest in kind of smaller brands in sort of natural organic? And any detail that you can offer on the Huggies innovation this summer would really be helpful.

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Michael D. Hsu, Kimberly-Clark Corporation - CEO & Director [10]

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Okay. Thanks, Lauren. Maybe I'll start with the last one. I'll probably -- not ready to share details on the launch this year. I will tell you, it's a premium Huggies Diaper, and that's kind of the general space, and it's consistent with our overall strategy in Personal Care overall but especially in diapers, which is we think there are opportunities for us to deliver improved benefits, especially on the dimensions of comfort, fit, protection and all the things that you would expect. I think in terms of -- the overall strategy really does highlight the need for more impactful innovation, and we are ramping up our efforts. And I know -- we just kicked off our K-C Strategy 2022 approach with our team earlier this -- or last quarter, rolled that out with our top executives. And then we're now deploying regional teams and cross-functional teams around the world to kind of get after it. I would tell you, though, that while we're just launching it now, we've been kind of working it for probably the past year or so. And so some of the things that you're seeing in market like some of the product launches or the launch we're talking about in North America this summer are a product of some of the teams working over the past year to accelerate some of this opportunity. So overall, big opportunity on innovation.

I think with your question on natural organic, it is -- I'd say in North America right now, it's still probably a niche opportunity or smaller, 1- to 2-, 3-share-type opportunity and something that we're going to continue to look at. I think the question around small brands in big markets like North America is a really relevant question because we still keep tabs -- or Maria and I still keep tabs on the food side, and we know what some of the smaller brands have done there. And so I think, for us, there's a question about whether there's an opportunity for us there and there may be, but we're not ready to share details on that yet. We are doing a pretty good job on pursuing natural organic in our Korean business, which -- that's a market where I think is one of the most sensitive about chemicals and contaminants of any market in the world. And we've gotten a number of brands, and they're doing very, very well and more than just a couple share points.

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Lauren Rae Lieberman, Barclays Bank PLC, Research Division - MD & Senior Research Analyst [11]

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Mike, is there a reason why you wouldn't have already done a sort of lift and shift then with some of the things you're pointing out with Korea? South Korea having long been a lead market for you guys in terms of innovation, in terms of market share to move quicker with taking kind of what's working there with a very, very discerning group of consumers and moving quicker to bring it to other markets, to bring it to the U.S., for example.

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Michael D. Hsu, Kimberly-Clark Corporation - CEO & Director [12]

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Yes. Great question. Definitely. And I think that's the focus going forward, which is maybe -- I like your term, faster lift and shift. We say apply -- adopt and apply, but that's part of it. And I think you will see some of that natural product flow into the U.S., perhaps in fem care later this -- at some point. And then also, I think this diaper that we -- that I talked about that's coming out this summer in North America, it really is a joint Asia Pac-North America development and a feature kind of a little -- new way we're work -- trying to work, which is more collaboratively around the world.

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Lauren Rae Lieberman, Barclays Bank PLC, Research Division - MD & Senior Research Analyst [13]

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Have you started to sell that into retail yet? Because also it's funny to see, right, there's news flows from Target. There is Walmart with Hello Bello, right? There's just -- the retailer -- even Target today would -- not so much in diapers, but I think it went into paper products, this new product launch that they've announced today. They seem to be charting their own course in what may well be a niche opportunity, maybe it's big. But just curious at those conversations, how much they want to sort of go their own way versus opening up shelf space for you guys to be bringing some of this news flow in maybe a little bit again behind where they have been themselves.

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Michael D. Hsu, Kimberly-Clark Corporation - CEO & Director [14]

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Yes. So on your first point, we haven't started selling this product in yet with customers and -- which is why I'm not sharing that many details on it right now. I will tell you, though, we do have the collaborative discussions with most of our major retailers or all of our major retailers. And they're still very receptive to big brands and big innovation. They are pursuing some other opportunities. But I think we're working them -- with them as partners kind of leading these categories.

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Operator [15]

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Our next question comes from Nik Modi with RBC.

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Sunil Harshad Modi, RBC Capital Markets, LLC, Research Division - MD of Tobacco, Household Products and Beverages [16]

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I guess it was a nice over-deliver at least relative to consensus this quarter. And Mike, I just -- I guess it's a philosophical question. As you think about your first year as CEO and when you think about the priorities and, clearly, given the level of disruption in the marketplace just generally across the CPG landscape, there's all of this stuff to spend money on, right: capabilities, innovation, et cetera, et cetera. So I'm just curious like on your thoughts on how you think about the goal for the year in terms of, hey, we can hit the high end of guidance, make commodity costs coming down, or, hey, look, there's a lot to spend. This is the first year. Let's go get it. I just was hoping you can give some guidance around how you think about that.

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Michael D. Hsu, Kimberly-Clark Corporation - CEO & Director [17]

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Well, I guess, maybe my near-term focus is on delivering the midterm objectives we outlined in January, right? And so -- and I do think maybe -- and this is maybe the company culture, which is we want to deliver consistent, predictable and positive earnings growth and sales growth, and so I think this quarter was a solid quarter for us, and we're encouraged by it, especially encouraged by the price realization and the margin improvement, but it's a step along the way. I will point out, Nik, though, I think a couple of bright spots for us in the quarter were we saw a broad improvement across a broad range of markets, all improving, U.S., Brazil, Central, Eastern Europe, ASEAN, U.K., Western Europe, India. So I think we got a lot of markets heading in the right direction, and so that's a good thing. And then obviously with the pricing being on track, that's obviously helping the shape of our P&L.

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Operator [18]

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Our next question comes from Ali Dibadj with Bernstein.

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Ali Dibadj, Sanford C. Bernstein & Co., LLC., Research Division - SVP and Senior Analyst [19]

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So I have 2 questions on top line and then 1 on free cash flow. First, from a Personal Care top line perspective. If you think about PCNA and then the kind of -- the Personal Care outside North America, so, i.e., developed markets, together, it looks like the price mix flattish for NA and then down 3% for outside North America developed markets. So it's negative on average. Volumes were good, so I'm not denying that, and that's excellent. But I just scratching was my head a little bit in terms of price/mix elements there given what's happened to commodities obviously going up, given that you're spending on advertising, given that we hear everything about the competitive situation being more benign yet unable to take price in the Personal Care area in developed markets. But just want your perspective on that. Is that diagnostic fair? Made the comment about market share along the way. It just struck me as why not take more pricing in that area in particular.

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Michael D. Hsu, Kimberly-Clark Corporation - CEO & Director [20]

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Yes. Probably, Ali, the biggest thing is maybe a bit of a lag on Personal Care North America. That's probably the biggest mover and driver that we have, which is we are doing most of our pricing on diapers through a PAC count change, and that started rolling through at the end of the first quarter, and it's still rolling through now. And so we had a big rollover. It took a little time for us to get that lined up, and so that's probably why you're not seeing as much price now. But that, we expect, will continue to improve as the year goes on.

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Paul J. Alexander, Kimberly-Clark Corporation - VP of IR [21]

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And Ali, Paul. In developed markets outside North America, broadly speaking, I'd say there hasn't been a lot of pricing in the marketplace in Personal Care. So this is Western, Central Europe, Australia and South Korea. The price decline in Q1 came primarily in South Korea where, given the decline in the birth rate, there has been a bit of a pickup in everyone competing to pursue growth in a pie that's getting a little bit smaller over time. In terms of share, as you asked about in North America across diapers and pants combined or the mega category, if you will, our shares on an all-outlook basis are even year-on-year. And that might be a little bit better than you're seeing in the tracked data because we continue to do strong in nonmeasured channels, including club and e-commerce.

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Ali Dibadj, Sanford C. Bernstein & Co., LLC., Research Division - SVP and Senior Analyst [22]

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Okay. Okay. That's helpful. And then on Consumer Tissue, both North America and developed markets, almost the opposite question, right, where you're seeing very significant pricing. I get it because of the commodity cost. But the elasticity looks a little bit tougher, particularly North America, so the downtown and CT, as we call it ONA, or outside North America, down about 3%. Can you talk a little bit about how that's going to continue throughout the year? Is that kind of the right balance? Or do you think there'll be a better balance going forward?

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Michael D. Hsu, Kimberly-Clark Corporation - CEO & Director [23]

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Yes. I think the -- I think maybe the first point is with regard to Q1, we are cycling a pretty big set of events that we had in the plans last year. For reference, I think our volume was up almost 10% in tissue North America first quarter last year. And overall, organic was up over -- I think over 5%. And so we are cycling that. We took those promotions out of the plan this year, so it's not that there -- it's a timing difference. It's just out of the plan. And so I think the Q1 this year, therefore, in that effect, I would say right now, the elasticity effect is probably as we predicted. We have a separate promo change that is as predicted. And so overall, we're on. I think the one thing for us to watch out is, overall, I think the pricing is on track and the volume's in line with our expectations to-date. The one thing we are keeping our eye on is I think some of the other private labels or some of the smaller brands have not -- we haven't seen the price move up yet. And so it's a little sticky on the upswing, so we're keeping our eye on that. We'll be ready to adjust our plans as necessary to make sure that we protect our share long term.

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Ali Dibadj, Sanford C. Bernstein & Co., LLC., Research Division - SVP and Senior Analyst [24]

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Okay. And just my last question on the free cash flow point. You said it was in expectations that working capital is up. But I want to get a better sense of your cash flow conversion here. It looked a little bit tougher, what we should expect going forward for the year and kind of what's going to make that change.

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Maria G. Henry, Kimberly-Clark Corporation - Senior VP & CFO [25]

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Sure. On cash flow, while it was down year-on-year for the first quarter, it was in line with what we expected. We had higher working capital, and we had an increase in restructuring cash payment. In working capital, that's really the big driver when you look at the numbers in the first quarter, and there were a number of factors that went into that. On the payables side, we had a stronger-than-expected finish to 2018, and those higher payables got paid out in the first quarter. On the receivables side, we had a number of factors, including the timing of the sales and also the higher level of sales. And we entered the quarter on a Sunday, so we lose 2 days on collections, which causes a runup in that balance. And then finally on inventory, as we expected, as we get into the supply chain portion of the restructuring program, there are inventory builds in advance of moving equipment or basically taking equipment off-line. So we expected that to happen, and we saw all of those factors play out in the first quarter. And for the year, as we said in January, we would expect cash from operations to be down slightly year-on-year.

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Operator [26]

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Our next question comes from Bonnie Herzog with Wells Fargo.

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Bonnie Lee Herzog, Wells Fargo Securities, LLC, Research Division - MD and Senior Beverage & Tobacco Analyst [27]

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I had a question on your full year organic sales growth guidance of 2%, which actually implies a bit of a deceleration on the top line through the balance of the year. But your comps do get easier the next couple of quarters. So I guess, I want to understand if we should interpret your guidance as maybe conservative. Or is there something else that we should be aware of that could cause growth to moderate? And then I'm just thinking about this in the context of you guys may be lapping some of the higher promos you had last year.

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Michael D. Hsu, Kimberly-Clark Corporation - CEO & Director [28]

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Yes. Bonnie, maybe I'll start, and maybe Maria can chime in. But we're making solid progress, but we still have plenty of work to do to make sure that we have a strong 2019. So while we're encouraged with the start, there's a lot we have ahead of us. Well, I just said to Nik, we have broad improvement across a lot of markets. We're still on the early days of price. And as I mentioned to Ali just now, we are watching elasticity, and alignment effects are kind of in line with our expectations, maybe even actually slightly better in D&E, especially. The thing that we are watching, though, is price -- competitive pricing. It does seem to be a little sticky on the way up, and so we're keeping our eye on that. So I think I don't -- I wouldn't know that we're -- I think we're calling it down the middle, which is what we believe. And 2% for us is a reasonable number. We got 9 months to go. There's a lot of work ahead for all of our teams.

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Bonnie Lee Herzog, Wells Fargo Securities, LLC, Research Division - MD and Senior Beverage & Tobacco Analyst [29]

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Okay. And then if I could, I just wanted to circle back on innovation with a couple of quick questions. First, your full innovation pipeline this year, would you characterize it as more back half weighted or do you think pretty evenly spread throughout the year as you roll out new products? And then second, curious how margin accretive some of the new innovation is. And was that possibly a key driver behind the sequential improvement you saw in your margins during the quarter? And then what could we expect in the future?

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Michael D. Hsu, Kimberly-Clark Corporation - CEO & Director [30]

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Yes. I think maybe a touch tilted to the back half, but I would say, overall, fairly balanced. Although I think the impact we're getting now is still from some of the benefits of innovation we launched last year. So we have an uptick, for example, in North American adult care where -- I think we're up high single digits in the quarter organically. That was on the backs of innovation that we launched last year with this discrete sizing, which has taken a little while to get traction in the marketplace, but it's getting that traction now. So I think we have a pretty robust innovation plan that's balanced across quarters. In terms of accretiveness, I don't have the exact number, but I think the strategy is to elevate our categories where that means premiumizing our categories by making it worth it. So a premium innovation. In general, we're aiming to move to higher price points, hopefully accretive.

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Paul J. Alexander, Kimberly-Clark Corporation - VP of IR [31]

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And I think, Bonnie, that bares out if you look at the sales changes in the quarter, mix was up as a company 1 point, and it was up essentially between 0.5 point and 1 point in all 3 segments. So to Mike's strategy comment, I think we're making good early progress.

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Operator [32]

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Our next question comes from Olivia Tong with Bank of America.

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Olivia Tong, BofA Merrill Lynch, Research Division - Director [33]

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I want to talk a little bit about marketing spend. You talked a lot about that last quarter and when we met in February. And obviously, you mentioned that it was up this quarter. So can you discuss some of the things that you did this quarter? Whether it's traditional or digital, where is the lion's share of the dollar spend going and then just a little bit of order of magnitude of the increase? And from this point forward, are you expecting it with Q1 sort of a high watermark and then it sort of normalizes from here? Or is it just the start, and we should actually expect to continue to increase as the year progresses?

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Maria G. Henry, Kimberly-Clark Corporation - Senior VP & CFO [34]

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Sure, Olivia. I'll start, and then Mike can jump in. In terms of our advertising spend on the P&L, it was up in the first quarter. And we have an expectation that, for the full year, it will also be up year-on-year. And that is encouraging because not only is it up but as we shift more of it to digital and as we continue our work to drive down the nonworking portion of the advertising expense, the actual consumer impressions that we're getting from that spend is up as well. And so good support behind the brands and the innovations. Mike, I don't know if you want to talk more about what we're doing in advertising.

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Michael D. Hsu, Kimberly-Clark Corporation - CEO & Director [35]

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Yes. Olivia, I think -- maybe a couple things, which is, one, overall, I'd say with a couple key brands, most notably in North America in adult care and in diapers, I think, increased levels of brand investment overall and brand support. And then more specifically, it is weighted to digital. And so some of the stuff that we're seeing and the reason why we're growing faster, perhaps, in nonmeasured channels is the strong digital investments that we're making in search. And that's paying strong returns from us -- for us and doing very, very well. We also have pretty good content now that we feel good about in terms of the messaging we're putting out there. And we're rolling out some new advertising on Cottonelle, which I think is being right now very, very effective. So overall, think we feel good about kind of where we are. We know we can do better still but looking forward to the progress.

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Olivia Tong, BofA Merrill Lynch, Research Division - Director [36]

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And should we expect the same increases this year as you talk about the upcoming innovation both in adult care and Huggies?

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Maria G. Henry, Kimberly-Clark Corporation - Senior VP & CFO [37]

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The benefit of innovations this year, is that -- was that the question? You're kind of breaking up.

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Olivia Tong, BofA Merrill Lynch, Research Division - Director [38]

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Oh, I'm sorry. In terms of the increase in advertising, should we expect that to -- I'm sorry, within advertising, are we expecting to increase advertising as the year progresses, especially as you fund or as you support innovation that's coming for the year?

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Maria G. Henry, Kimberly-Clark Corporation - Senior VP & CFO [39]

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Yes. Yes, okay. Well, we, as you know, we only disclose the advertising number I think once a year. And I don't want to get into how the quarters are going to flow. So suffice it to say that it was up on the P&L in the first quarter, and we would expect for the full year that it will be up also.

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Olivia Tong, BofA Merrill Lynch, Research Division - Director [40]

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Got it. And then just lastly on pricing. Can you talk about how much of the pricing benefit you would attribute to just straight list price increases related to commodities versus some of the things that you're working on with respect to trade spend efficiency and innovation?

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Michael D. Hsu, Kimberly-Clark Corporation - CEO & Director [41]

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Yes. I think's it's an overall mix. I think in Q1, maybe -- and I'll have an exact number, but I would say the vast majority of it is some form of pricing, straight pricing, whether it's list or pack count changes. But I think those are probably the big buckets for us right now. We're making progress, especially in North America, on trade efficiency, and we have some programs there. I don't know how much would show up in the P&L right now, but it's -- I know it's a big priority for the organization, and they're doing a good job with it.

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Operator [42]

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Our next question comes from Andrea Teixeira with JPMorgan.

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Andrea Faria Teixeira, JP Morgan Chase & Co, Research Division - MD [43]

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So can you comment a little bit on the 15% organic growth in Brazil? I appreciate the detail, and it was driven by pricing. And I believe you were lapping this price increase in the third quarter. I just want to check that. So one of these competitors are now finally following? Or they're retrenching given the commodity structures are not finally easy now? And also, follow-up question on -- for Maria on the cash flow. So I appreciate the detail on the cash conversion side and the working capital. I was wondering if you can explain a little bit more of the CapEx and the timing aspect of it.

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Michael D. Hsu, Kimberly-Clark Corporation - CEO & Director [44]

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Okay, Andrea. Maybe I'll start with Brazil. And first of all, the team is doing a great job down there, and we're experiencing strong growth in what I would characterize as a very challenging consumer environment. Our Personal Care organic volume was up, as we said, about 15%. Net selling prices were up double digits, and volume was up low single digits, Andrea. So I think we're not the final laws of gravity there or elasticity there. I think the market pricing overall is generally moving in the right direction. But I would say there's a handful of local competitors that are lagging a little bit. The better-than-expected volume performance, however, is really a result of maybe great commercial execution, which is strong sales execution, a great brand value proposition and good advertising, I would say, overall working together. And that's what the team is doing. And it's why building out commercial capability in our K-C Strategy 2022 is so important. There's a number of markets that look like they're defying the laws of elasticity, but really, it comes down to strong commercial execution, and Brazil is one of them.

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Maria G. Henry, Kimberly-Clark Corporation - Senior VP & CFO [45]

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Good. And then I'll -- no, go ahead. Go ahead, Andrea.

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Andrea Faria Teixeira, JP Morgan Chase & Co, Research Division - MD [46]

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Yes. No. So I appreciate, Mike, when you said that -- when you -- in the initial comment, I think you said it's sluggish, so I wasn't sure if it was negative. So you're saying the volumes are still up in the low single digits in Brazil, so which is encouraging. And now I just want to -- yes, okay, perfect.

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Michael D. Hsu, Kimberly-Clark Corporation - CEO & Director [47]

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Just to clarify, Andrea -- hey, Andrea, just to -- the volume was down low single digit. So our pricing was...

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Andrea Faria Teixeira, JP Morgan Chase & Co, Research Division - MD [48]

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Ah, down, okay.

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Michael D. Hsu, Kimberly-Clark Corporation - CEO & Director [49]

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Pricing was up double digits, pretty strong double digits, and volume was down low single digit. But I would say way better than what the elasticity model would have said.

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Maria G. Henry, Kimberly-Clark Corporation - Senior VP & CFO [50]

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And then on CapEx at $316 million in the quarter, that's in line with our expectations, and it reflects the supply chain portion of the restructuring program really kicking into gear this year. So we continue to expect $1.1 billion to $1.3 billion on CapEx for the year, and you started seeing some of that come through in the first quarter.

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Operator [51]

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Our next question comes from Steve Powers with Deutsche Bank.

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Stephen Robert R. Powers, Deutsche Bank AG, Research Division - Research Analyst [52]

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So I guess I wanted to start on U.S. Personal Care, where the strength was really notable relative to at least what we've seen in scan data. So just maybe some comments on that and whether that's strength in on-track channels or whether that's an element of shipments running ahead of consumption. Just how you saw the growth this quarter and how we should kind of think about that momentum going forward.

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Michael D. Hsu, Kimberly-Clark Corporation - CEO & Director [53]

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Yes. Steve, thanks for that question. Definitely, I think strength in nonmeasured channels. The -- overall, the mega category was up about 2 points in the quarter. Our share, overall, as Paul mentioned, was about flat. Huggies was up low single digits, and I think that's really been driven by a strong product performance. And as we were just talking about increased brand investment and brand support. Growth was especially strong in nonmeasured channels. And that for us is club and primarily e-comm and club. And as I was mentioning, we got a very strong digital program in e-commerce across all of our customers, and I think that's really working to good effect right now. So yes, we're encouraged by the progress in Personal Care. Pull-Ups is up high single digits as well. Our adult care business is up high single digits, and so it's moving in the right direction.

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Stephen Robert R. Powers, Deutsche Bank AG, Research Division - Research Analyst [54]

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Okay. Great. And then, I guess, my broader question is just to get you, maybe, Mike, to expand a little bit more on how you're thinking about the medium term, the duration of K-C Strategy 2022. Because just building out this quarter, as you say, it sounds like -- it looks like you're ahead of schedule. The tone today is deservedly very confident as a result. But on the other hand, you called you still have a lot of improvement initiatives underway. Macro competitive conditions remain hard to call.

And stepping back, year-over-year operating profits in dollar terms have yet to inflect positive. They should, I agree, as you move forward. But it just seems like the pricing, which was great this quarter, is tied to FX and cost inflation, and if those come in wider -- just how do you assess your ability to hold on to these pricing and bank some of the productivity that you have underway in order to flow through better dollar-based bottom line results versus having to reinvest to sustain volume share versus competition? And I'm not really so focused on next quarter or even this year but thinking really about what the evergreen model is over the course of that medium-term strategy.

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Michael D. Hsu, Kimberly-Clark Corporation - CEO & Director [55]

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Yes. Well, I think, Steve, as I mentioned when we were together, I'm really excited about the growth opportunities the company has ahead of it. And that really for me, the 3 big strategies of what I call elevate the core, which is premiumizing our categories with value-added innovation or capturing the growth or leading the development of developing and emerging markets and then building this consumer-digital relationship, I think, are really kind of robust growth opportunities that are really, really good for us. I think to accelerate our progress, we've outlined a handful of capability areas that happen -- that have to do with innovation or doing better job on innovation, sales execution, our digital execution and also revenue growth management or pricing management. So those are 4 big plans.

I would say, the -- one of the reasons why we're encouraged with our progress in Q1 is we're starting to build and improving in these 4 areas that we've -- that I just outlined on the commercial capability, and that's starting to play through. I mentioned Brazil where our 15% organic is driven by pricing, but it's also driven by strong execution. We're seeing the same across ASEAN where we've got good double-digit growth, price increasing but volume also going up. Central and Eastern Europe is doing the same thing. So I think, overall, it's putting all these pieces together for us, which is the core of the strategy. We're going to stay focused on delivering consistent growth.

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Operator [56]

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Our next question comes from Kevin Grundy with Jefferies.

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Herbert John Eppich, Jefferies LLC, Research Division - Equity Associate [57]

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This is Herb Eppich on for Kevin. One quick one just on restructuring, so specifically, $60 million in savings for the quarter and your outlook for $100 million, $125 million for the year. So savings have been building sequentially for the last couple quarters but your outlook assumes that these shifts flows. So is there anything we should be aware of, maybe when you say your shifting in the first quarter? Any commentary there will be helpful.

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Maria G. Henry, Kimberly-Clark Corporation - Senior VP & CFO [58]

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Yes. We had $60 million in the quarter, which is a good savings number for us. But you'll recall that we had no savings in the first quarter of last year as the restructuring program was announced in January of last year and then took some time to ramp up. And so the -- if you look at the $60 million in relationship to the expectation for the year of $100 million to $125 million, when we start to get into the second quarter, we will be lapping quarters where we were building savings through 2018. And so that's really the driver.

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Operator [59]

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Our next question comes from Steve Strycula with UBS.

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Steven A. Strycula, UBS Investment Bank, Research Division - Director and Equity Research Analyst [60]

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Congratulations on a good quarter.

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Michael D. Hsu, Kimberly-Clark Corporation - CEO & Director [61]

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Thanks, Steve.

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Steven A. Strycula, UBS Investment Bank, Research Division - Director and Equity Research Analyst [62]

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So I had a -- Mike, I had a question. Last quarter, you mentioned that there might be some lumpiness on the quarter-to-quarter trend, and first quarter clearly came in well ahead of what a lot of the investment community was expecting. So is there any lumpiness you would be mindful of for like Q2 or like the balance of the year in terms of sell-in versus sellout, particularly as you start lapping some of the price increases that you phased in towards end of last year?

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Maria G. Henry, Kimberly-Clark Corporation - Senior VP & CFO [63]

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Yes. I'll make a comment, and then, Mike, jump in. If you -- we don't give quarterly guidance, but a few things that I'd say keep in mind. We have some benefits in the first quarter with the Lunar New Year happening, and we typically have a strong first quarter around that. As we move into the second quarter, Kleenex will be kind of out of season in terms of cold and flu. And then the final thing, as Mike mentioned earlier, the pricing just went in on diapers here in the first quarter. So I think we haven't seen how all of this is going to play out in our numbers. And we commented that we expect the second half to be somewhat in relationship to the first half. So that kind of gives a lot of different things to think about as you think about how you're going to lay out your expectations on the quarters.

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Steven A. Strycula, UBS Investment Bank, Research Division - Director and Equity Research Analyst [64]

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Okay. Great. Mike, and then a follow-up for you. How should we think about -- it seems like volume trends were generally better than what you were expecting. Do you guys have success in winning some planograms that were some key callouts you'd want to shed light on? And then, what key emerging markets, if any, would you say were sequentially the end market demand just improved quarter-on-quarter?

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Michael D. Hsu, Kimberly-Clark Corporation - CEO & Director [65]

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Well, yes -- Steve, yes, I think maybe the second part first. I would say broadly across most markets demand improved versus where it was maybe last quarter. And so if you go through the markets, CE was up about strong double digits for us; ASEAN was up double digits; obviously, Brazil, we already mentioned; Argentina, obviously, a big number; India, up double digits as well; China fem care, up another strong robust double-digit quarter; China diapers, obviously, still down but I think improving sequentially behind our new product improvements. So I think across the broad array of markets improving.

And I think in North America, again, improved commercial execution, there probably are some distribution changes here and there, and I think we've made some progress in some areas. But the other part of it is better product performance, and we have made improvements broadly across diapers, across adult care, both on Depend and Poise. Poise is just shipping this quarter. Our Cottonelle bath tissues, Scott Comfort Plus is all gaining increased consumer traction. So we're feeling good about kind of the innovation piece of the puzzle.

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Operator [66]

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Our next question comes from Jonathan Feeney with Consumer Edge Research.

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Jonathan Patrick Feeney, Consumer Edge Research, LLC - Senior Analyst of Food & HPC, Director of research and Managing Partner [67]

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You had a little drop in developing and emerging market volume in both Personal Care and tissue. Just the volume piece, and I know there's a ton of pricing in there driven by commodities. But can you update us on the market-level volume growth roughly in your developing and emerging market portfolio overall? And maybe cite -- I know, was that a gain -- a loss of volume share? And who is -- who would pick up that volume share? I'm looking at demographics. It would seem to me that there'd be ongoing volume growth in those markets.

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Paul J. Alexander, Kimberly-Clark Corporation - VP of IR [68]

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Yes. Jonathan, maybe I'll start just to put the volume decline in a little bit of context, and then Mike can give, obviously, more color. If you looked at across our total D&E lineup and set aside China and Argentina, our volumes would have been up a little bit in the quarter, which, given the inflationary pricing environment we are all facing and consumers are facing, that was a pretty solid outcome.

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Michael D. Hsu, Kimberly-Clark Corporation - CEO & Director [69]

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Yes. Yes. So overall, I think we feel good about where the markets are heading. We feel good about our commercial execution broadly across D&E. And I think most of the volume declines were related to price changes.

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Jonathan Patrick Feeney, Consumer Edge Research, LLC - Senior Analyst of Food & HPC, Director of research and Managing Partner [70]

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So did others not take -- am I right that there's a little bit of share loss there? Did others not take that pricing? I'm just curious like what the competitive dynamics are in the wake of it.

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Michael D. Hsu, Kimberly-Clark Corporation - CEO & Director [71]

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Yes. I think it's market by market, but I would say, it -- as a general rule of thumb, I would say the major branded competitors moved in line with us or some ahead of us. And then you have some stickiness in local competitors or some of the smaller players, and so we're keeping a sharp eye on that.

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Operator [72]

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Our next question comes from Ali Dibadj with Bernstein.

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Ali Dibadj, Sanford C. Bernstein & Co., LLC., Research Division - SVP and Senior Analyst [73]

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I just wanted to touch base on China in a little bit more detail. I know you've put it in the prepared remarks in the PowerPoint. But can you give us just some more color about what's going on there from a pricing perspective? We clearly see the volumes as well, but that's been a hotspot recently. Just want to get an update, please.

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Michael D. Hsu, Kimberly-Clark Corporation - CEO & Director [74]

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Yes. Thanks, Ali. Yes, I would say, in diapers, pricing is kind of down where it was last quarter. So overall for us, our premium Huggies is gaining traction behind the innovation that we talked about last quarter, and our fem care continues the really strong momentum. We're really not satisfied with our performance yet, but we're making progress. Our Personal Care organic sales were down high single digit, which is an improvement versus the prior quarter. The competitive activity on price remains elevated. It remains kind of where pricing has been. But I think, specifically, in my -- our team's view and my view is the consumers in that market are still looking for better solutions, and our improved Tier 5 and 6 diapers are gaining traction. They're up significantly in volume and up in value as well. And we'll be rolling out that technology that we've put into that across other tiers and other channels this year. So we're building for the long term, and I'm really feeling good about what the team is doing there.

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Ali Dibadj, Sanford C. Bernstein & Co., LLC., Research Division - SVP and Senior Analyst [75]

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But I guess -- what are you seeing the competitive situation looking like, whether it be from the regional players there, Japanese in particular, or from P&G?

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Michael D. Hsu, Kimberly-Clark Corporation - CEO & Director [76]

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Well, we're still seeing pricing suppressed. And then, we are getting wind of some additional product introductions. We don't have visibility on everything yet. But obviously, I think, products and technology still matters a lot in China. And that's what the consumer's looking for, and that's why you're seeing the responsiveness in the premium tiers.

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Operator [77]

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Our next question comes from Caroline Levy with Macquarie.

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Caroline Shan Levy, Macquarie Research - Senior Analyst [78]

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Couple of things. How important is the real price of oil, which is up so much, to the outlook for polymers?

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Maria G. Henry, Kimberly-Clark Corporation - Senior VP & CFO [79]

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Yes. The price on oil has gone up. And so when we think about our outlook on commodities overall as I went through in the beginning of the call, kind of our puts and takes on some of the fiber-based commodities and other material commodities, the oil prices definitely have us watching the market. The relationship between oil prices and the exact commodities that we buy has not been as correlated as of late as it had been historically, but it certainly does have us remaining cautious on full year outlook for the oil-based derivative materials that we're using. So it's kind of mixed with the sequential improvements that we're seeing in some areas. But with the oil run-up, we're just keeping an eye on it.

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Caroline Shan Levy, Macquarie Research - Senior Analyst [80]

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Right, Maria, and could you elaborate a little bit on the outlook for transport?

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Maria G. Henry, Kimberly-Clark Corporation - Senior VP & CFO [81]

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Sure. Distribution costs were up. They continue to be inflationary for us. They were higher a year ago, and it's -- distribution costs are a meaningful portion of our overall cost of sales. And the outlook for the year assumes that we will have distribution inflation for the full year, but it hasn't changed from what our position was when we talked to you in January. And I should note, the increases on distribution costs are global.

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Michael D. Hsu, Kimberly-Clark Corporation - CEO & Director [82]

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Yes. The other note I'll make, Caroline, is that last quarter or at the end of fourth quarter of '18, we did have some additional expenses because of some distribution challenges. I think our team is making progress there, and we are improving.

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Caroline Shan Levy, Macquarie Research - Senior Analyst [83]

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That's great. If I might, just a couple more. Could you comment on Mexico? Doesn't look like things have improved there in the way they have in Brazil, but maybe I'm missing something. And then, the last one would be just to discuss your overall -- how you think about development of private label? Just where do you see it as a significant longer-term or medium-term threat and whether you would consider participating in it in any way.

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Michael D. Hsu, Kimberly-Clark Corporation - CEO & Director [84]

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Yes. Well, maybe the last one first, Caroline. We do, do a bit of private label right now. It's not a strategic part of our business, but it is -- in certain instances, we will produce some private label. We generally don't have the capacity of taking on as a big strategic bet, especially given the amount of capital we got to put into it. Generally, I think it's not necessarily a great return on our capital to invest in on that type of capacity. However, I will say we're monitoring it closely because in the -- especially in North America right now in bath tissue, I'll note that private label is up a bit, and pricing has not moved upwards yet on a lot of private label. And so we're keeping a sharp eye on that. We'll be able to adjust our plans, if necessary.

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Maria G. Henry, Kimberly-Clark Corporation - Senior VP & CFO [85]

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And then on Mexico, we're not going to comment since they haven't released yet. But what I would say is if you look at equity company contributions, it's relatively flat year-on-year.

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Caroline Shan Levy, Macquarie Research - Senior Analyst [86]

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I saw that. Yes, I saw that. And if I might just squeak in one more on China. What percentage of your business there is premium? Because I thought you're largely only played premium, but your total sales are still down.

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Michael D. Hsu, Kimberly-Clark Corporation - CEO & Director [87]

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Yes. The most 2 premium tiers for us, Caroline, are a little bit more than half our total Huggies Diaper business.

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Operator [88]

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At this time, we have no further questioners in the queue.

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Michael D. Hsu, Kimberly-Clark Corporation - CEO & Director [89]

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All right. Well, we appreciate everyone's questions today. And we will speak with you next quarter. Thank you very much, and have a great day. Bye.

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Operator [90]

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Ladies and gentlemen, that concludes this morning's presentation. You may disconnect your phone lines, and thank you for joining us this morning.