Estée Lauder Profit Tops Street as Cosmetic Sales Surge

Citing improvements in U.S. and China, Estee Lauder (NYSE:EL) revealed a 25% increase in fourth-quarter profit that topped Wall Street expectations on Tuesday, and said it anticipates further sales growth this year.

The New York-based beauty products maker reported net earnings of $51.2 million, or 13 cents a share, compared with a year-earlier $41.1 million, or 10 cents.

Excluding one-time items, Estee Lauder earned 17 cents, topping average analyst estimates in a Thomson Reuters poll by a penny.

Shares of Estee Lauder soared as high as 8% out of the bell on Tuesday to $59.30.

Revenue for the three months ended June 30 grew 9% to $2.25 billion from $2.06 billion a year ago, matching the Street’s view.

Sales grew on a constant currency basis in each of the company’s geographic regions and in all product categories except fragrance in Asia/Pacific. Skin-care sales climbed 6% to $16 million while those of makeup jumped 9% to $17 million.

While the same period in 2011 was impacted by the deadly March earthquake and tsunami in Japan that stifled sales, Estee Lauder said its Asia/Pacific region benefited from double-digit sales increases in China and Hong Kong this year.

“A very strong fourth quarter was driven largely by continued momentum in the U.S. and strong growth in China and travel retail,” Estee Lauder CEO Fabrizio Freda said in a statement. “Our strategy is working, we believe it is sustainable and we continue to further strengthen our leadership in prestige beauty.”

Looking ahead, the operator of the Bobbi Brown and Clinique brands said it expects to spend more on advertising its top brands while reducing major operating expenses, financing the spending by offering fewer promotions.

In the current quarter, the beauty products maker sees net sales growing in the range of 5% to 7% on non-GAAP earnings of 71 cents to 77 cents. Analysts on average are looking for earnings of 78 cents.

For fiscal 2013, Estee Lauder forecasts sales growth between 6% and 8% on earnings of $2.44 to $2.56 a share, below the consensus of $2.57.

While the company said it is "performing well," it noted weaknesses in certain Western European countries, Korean and Australia and increasing due to "ongoing economic uncertainties and volatility in financial markets.”