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Company outlook statements show management teams are
concerned about a growth slowdown in the second half of
the year. While emerging markets and pricing power have
contributed positively to results, managements are still
worried about commodity costs and currencies. Dividends
and buybacks remain a focus of many companies.
We reviewed the 2Q2008 earnings transcripts of the largest companies in
each sector of the DJ Stoxx 600 to assess anecdotal evidence on the
economic picture, pricing trends, cost pressures and major themes.
The majority of companies talked about an impending slowdown in world growth. The focus has shifted to Western Europe and, in particular, Spain. Some companies lowered guidance when they released results.
Emerging markets remain a key support for companies with regional
diversification. Russia, Central/Eastern Europe and China were often cited
as helping to offset weakness in the rest of the world.
Commodity cost pressures were extreme in the second quarter, and while
some companies were able to increase prices, many still suffered from
margin compression. A higher euro also hurt companies based on the
continent. However, commodity prices have come down in recent weeks
and European currencies have started to weaken. This may positively
impact results in future quarters.
Many companies remained committed to returning value to shareholders
this quarter, in the form of both dividends and share buybacks. There
appears to be little impact from the credit crunch on large-cap listed
companies\u2019 ability to raise debt financing.
The Goldman Sachs Group, Inc. does and seeks to do business with companies covered in its research reports. As a result, investors should be
aware that the firm may have a conflict of interest that could affect the objectivity of this report. Investors should consider this report as only a single
factor in making their investment decision. For Reg AC certification, see the text preceding the disclosures. For other important disclosures go to
www.gs.com/research/hedge.html. Analysts employed by non-US affiliates are not required to take the NASD/NYSE analyst exam.
The Summary of Commentary on Economic Conditions, commonly known as the Beige
Book, is published by the US Federal Reserve eight times per year. In the Beige Book, the
12 regional Reserve branches offer anecdotal evidence on the current economic
environment in their respective regions based on interviews with key business contacts,
economists, market experts, and other sources.
In this report we have reviewed the 2Q2008 earnings transcripts of the largest companies in the DJ Stoxx 600 to assess anecdotal evidence on the economic picture, pricing trends, cost pressures and major themes (such as emerging markets, the credit crunch, industry consolidation, and return to shareholders). Our US counterparts produce a very similar report; see S&P 500 Beige Book, August 8, 2008.
The 87 companies included in this report collectively reported earnings of \u20ac267 bn in
FY2007, 53% of the total for the index. All comments in this report were taken verbatim
from the company transcripts as recorded by CallStreet, available through Factset.
Managements\u2019 outlook statements appeared much more muted this quarter. Some
companies even lowered guidance for the full year, based on softening top-line trends and
continuing input cost pressures.
Companies within the Travel & Leisure and Automobiles & Parts sectors appear to be
under particular pressure. Almost all the companies in these two sectors mentioned
pressure on top-line growth, as well as cost pressures stemming from higher input costs
and currency moves. We are Underweight both sectors (having downgraded Autos in
The outlook for the remainder of the year, which is I think what we\u2019ll focus on now, is
entirely dependent on fares and fuel prices, and we believe it remains poor. The emerging
economic recession in the UK and Ireland which has worsened significantly in recent
months, caused by the global credit crisis and high oil prices, means that consumer
confidence is plummeting and we believe this will have an adverse impact on average
fares for the rest of the year.
In addition, many more companies talked, this quarter, about the impact of a slowdown in
Western Europe and, in particular, Spain. Companies including Volkswagen, ACS, BMW,
Daimler, Vodafone, Barclays, Ericsson and BBVA all mentioned a slowdown in Spain
impacting recent results. As ACS stated on its conference call:
We experienced a big downturn in homebuilding in Spain. Obviously, it\u2019s a combination of
factors both real estate and the financial crisis, and again, also that has impact from the
international financial crisis\u2026This situation is also affecting the non-residential
commercial activity as can be shown in the evolution of both activities and backlog.
Weakness has also hit those sectors thought to be more \u201cdefensive,\u201d such as
Telecommunications. Vodafone had surprising weakness, and as a result, had to lower
guidance for the year:
It is clear that revenue growth in the quarter is below the run rate implied by our guidance
range set out in May, with the recent deterioration in Spain the main driver. We now
believe our group revenue for the year will come in around the bottom of the outlook
range. This will partly be due to Spain and the tougher U.K. environment.
Now bringing you back...
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