Why P&G is changing its M&A strategy

David Taylor

Procter & Gamble Co. (NYSE: PG) will focus on growing its top 25 brands including Bounty paper towels, Charmin toilet paper, Crest toothpaste, Pampers diapers, Nyquil cough cold medicine, and Tide laundry detergent, while seeking acquisitions.

In April, P&G announced plans to buy Merck KGaA’s consumer-health business for $4.2 billion. The deal includes the Femibion and Neurobion over-the-counter healthcare brands that help relieve muscle, joint and back pain, colds and headaches. P&G is also purchasing skincare brand First Aid Beauty. First Aid, founded in 2009 and based in Newton, Massachusetts, makes products that are designed for sensitive skin, redness, dry skin and eczema.

“What you have to have is the brand consumers prefer, because then retailers want to carry it, because it builds the basket,” P&G CEO David Taylor said, outlining the company’s new strategy during its fiscal fourth quarter earnings call in July. P&G’s $16.5 billion in revenue for the period missed expectations of $16.55 billion. “We will supplement when we see an opportunity that gives us either people capabilities or a key brand that we think we can turn from a small brand into a bigger brand and grow over time,” Taylor said during the earnings call. “How I’d contrast this with potentially the past is we’re not looking to proliferate a ton of brands and we want a huge number of small brands. What we want to do is grow our big brands, and we believe it’s very important that we plant seeds in high-growth areas, either organically or through acquisition, and make them bigger brands by bringing our capability be it product, package technology, communication, and/or supply chain, which often is what enables you to turn these brands from small, unprofitable brands to mid-sized to bigger profitable businesses. And that’s exciting, because almost every category, there is a meaningful consumer segment, and it is growing fast.”

Over the last four years, P&G has exited more than 100 brands in order to focus on faster-growing business lines. The process saw P&G sell Duracell batteries to Warren Buffett’s Berkshire Hathaway Inc. (NYSE: BRK.A), along with more than 40 beauty brands to Coty Inc. (NYSE: COTY). P&G has also sold the Tag fragrance brand to My Imports USA and the license of the Christina Aguilera fragrance to Elizabeth Arden.

Now P&G owns 65 brands across 10 product categories, including baby and feminine products, household, personal and skincare. With P&G being smaller and leaner again, it will look to thrive for another 180 years. “We need to strengthen the long-term health and competitiveness of our brands,” Taylor adds.

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