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Why Colgate-Palmolive Shows Sparkle

By Gene G. Marcial

Play defense in the market's current turmoil, says Owen Fitzpatrick of Deutsche Bank's (DB) Private Wealth Management group. One place of refuge, he says, is consumer staples. His top pick: Colgate-Palmolive (CL), best known for toothpaste, whose stock has pushed up despite the market's travails -- from 49 in December to 55.91 on May 19. Fitzpatrick sees it hitting 65 this year. Some 60% of sales come from overseas, where Colgate's share has grown steadily. But he sees fresh growth in North America, where earnings were off in 2003 because of increased media and promotion costs. He thinks North America will turn around and see major growth in 2004. Aside from toothpaste, Colgate makes an array of personal and household products, with key brands Colgate, Palmolive, Softsoap, and Hill's pet food. Lauren Lieberman of Credit Suisse First Boston (CSR), which rates Colgate "outperform," says operating profits could grow 8.5% to 9% in the next three to five years. She expects Colgate to earn $2.63 in 2004 and $2.95 in 2005, vs. 2003's $2.46.

Note: Unless otherwise noted, neither the sources cited in Inside Wall Street nor their firms hold positions in the stocks under discussion. Similarly, they have no investment banking or other financial relationships with them. See Gene on Fridays at 1:20 p.m. EST on CNNfn's The Money Gang.

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