Estee Lauder Profit Grows, But 4Q Forecast Bleak

Shares of Estée Lauder (NYSE:EL) slumped 4% Friday morning after the beauty company revealed a disappointing quarterly profit forecast and posted weaker operating income in all but one of its product groups.

A 9% improvement in third-quarter skin care sales, which represents about half of its total revenue and includes high-end Clinique moisturizers, helped lift the segment’s operating profit 14% to $156.3 million.

However, the maker of Bobbi Brown and MAC cosmetics and fragrances reported weaker earnings in its smaller makeup, fragrance and hair care groups.

Estée Lauder said it is cautious of macroeconomic factors that could affect the growth of China’s economy and forecasted fourth-quarter sales growth of 10% to 11%. It sees earnings in the range of 11 cents to 16 cents, which is far below the 20 cents being predicted by analysts in a Thomson Reuters poll.

For the full year, Estée Lauder said its view remains positive but will increase promotional spending to support the launch of new products. It’s expecting earnings of $2.21 to $2.26 a share, which is in line with estimates of $2.24.

The New York-based company reported quarterly profit of $130.4 million, or 33 cents a share, compared with a year-earlier $124.7 million, or 31 cents.

Excluding one-time items, Estée Lauder earned 38 cents, ahead of average analyst estimates of 33 cents in a Thomson Reuters poll.

“Our third quarter sales came in slightly ahead of our forecast and, importantly, we were able to leverage part of that growth into an overachievement of earnings per share,” Estée Lauder CEO Fabrizio Freda said in a statement.

Revenue for the three months ended March 31 was up 3.8% to $2.25 billion from $2.17 billion a year ago, matching the Street’s view.