Avon Products, Inc. Value Stock - Dividend - Research Selection
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Description of the company
We are a global manufacturer and marketer of beauty and related products. We commenced operations in 1886 and were incorporated in the State of New York on January 27, 1916. We conduct our business in the highly competitive beauty industry and compete against other consumer packaged goods ("CPG") and direct-selling companies to create, manufacture and market beauty and non-beauty-related products. Our product categories are Beauty and Fashion & Home. Beauty consists of skincare, fragrance and color (cosmetics). Fashion & Home consists of fashion jewelry, watches, apparel, footwear, accessories, gift and decorative products, housewares, entertainment and leisure products, children’s products and nutritional products.
Our business is conducted primarily in one channel, direct selling. Our reportable segments are based on geographic operations in four regions: Europe, Middle East & Africa; South Latin America; North Latin America; and Asia Pacific. Financial information relating to our reportable segments is included in "Segment Review" within Management’s Discussion and Analysis of Financial Condition and Results of Operations, which we refer to in this report as "MD&A," on pages 27 through 55 of this Annual Report on Form 10-K for the year ended December 31, 2017, which we refer to in this report as our "2017 Annual Report," and in Note 14, Segment Information, to the Consolidated Financial Statements on pages F-42 through F-44 of our 2017 Annual Report. We refer to each of the Notes to the Consolidated Financial Statements in this 2017 Annual Report as a "Note." Information about geographic areas is included in Note 14, Segment Information on pages F-42 through F-44 of our 2017 Annual Report. All of our consolidated revenue is derived from operations of subsidiaries outside of the United States ("U.S.").
In December 2015, we entered into definitive agreements with affiliates of Cerberus Capital Management L.P. ("Cerberus"), which included a $435 investment in Avon by an affiliate of Cerberus through the purchase of our convertible preferred stock and the separation of the North America business (including approximately $100 of cash, subject to certain adjustments) from Avon into New Avon LLC ("New Avon"), a privately-held company that is majority-owned and managed by an affiliate of Cerberus. These transactions closed in March 2016 and Avon retained approximately 20% ownership in New Avon. Our North America business had consisted of the Company's operations in the U.S., Canada and Puerto Rico; this business was previously its own reportable segment, and has been presented as discontinued operations for all periods presented. Refer to Note 3, Discontinued Operations and Divestitures on pages F-19 through F-20 of our 2017 Annual Report and Note 4, Investment in New Avon on page F-20 of our 2017 Annual Report for additional information regarding the investment by an affiliate of Cerberus and the separation of the North America business.
During 2017, we had sales operations in 56 countries and territories, and distributed our products in 18 other countries and territories.
Unlike most of our CPG competitors, which sell their products through third-party retail establishments (e.g., drug stores and department stores), we primarily sell our products to the ultimate consumer through the direct-selling channel. In our case, sales of our products are made to the ultimate consumer principally through direct selling by Representatives, who are independent contractors and not our employees. As of December 31, 2017, we had approximately 6 million active Representatives which represents the number of Representatives submitting an order in a sales campaign, totaled for all campaigns during the year and then divided by the number of campaigns. Representatives earn by purchasing products directly from us at a discount from a published brochure price and selling them to their customers, the ultimate consumer of our products. Representatives can start their Avon businesses for a nominal fee, or in some markets, for no fee at all. We generally have no arrangements with end users of our products beyond the Representative, except as described below. No single Representative accounts for more than 10% of our net sales globally.
A Representative contacts their customers directly, selling primarily through our brochure, which highlights new products and special promotions for each sales campaign. In this sense, the Representative, together with the brochure, are the "store" through which our products are sold. A brochure introducing a new sales campaign is typically generated every three to four weeks. Generally, the Representative forwards an order for a campaign to us using the Internet, paper, telephone, or fax. This order is processed and the products are assembled at a distribution center and delivered to the Representative usually through a combination of local and national delivery companies. Generally, the Representative then delivers the merchandise and collects payment from the customer for her or his own account. A Representative generally receives a refund of the price the Representative paid for a product if the Representative chooses to return it.
We employ certain web-enabled systems to increase Representative support, which allow a Representative to run her or his business more efficiently and also allow us to improve our order-processing accuracy. For example, in many countries, Representatives can utilize the Internet to manage their business electronically, including order submission, order tracking, payment and communications with us. In addition, in many markets, Representatives can further build their own business through personalized web pages provided by us, enabling them to sell a complete line of our products online. Self-paced online training also is available in certain markets.
In some markets, we use decentralized branches, satellite stores and independent retail operations (e.g., beauty boutiques) to serve Representatives and other customers. Representatives come to a branch to place and pick up product orders for their customers. The branches also create visibility of the Avon brand and channel with consumers and help reinforce our beauty image. In certain markets, we provide opportunities to license our beauty centers and other retail-oriented and direct-to-consumer opportunities to reach new customers in complementary ways to direct selling. In the United Kingdom and certain other markets, we also utilize e-commerce and market our products through consumer websites.
The recruiting or appointing and training of Representatives are the primary responsibilities of district sales managers, zone managers and independent leaders. Depending on the market and the responsibilities of the role, some of these individuals are our employees and some are independent contractors. Those who are employees are paid a salary and an incentive based primarily on the achievement of a sales objective in their district. Those who are independent contractors are rewarded primarily based on total sales achieved in their zones or downline team of recruited, trained and managed Representatives. Personal contacts, including recommendations from current Representatives (including the sales leadership program), and local market advertising constitute the primary means of obtaining new Representatives. The sales leadership program is a multi-level compensation program which gives Representatives, known as independent leaders, the opportunity to earn discounts on their own sales of our products, as well as commissions based on the net sales made by Representatives they have recruited and trained. This program generally limits the number of levels on which commissions can be earned to three. The primary responsibilities of independent leaders are the prospecting, appointing, training and development of their downline Representatives while maintaining a certain level of their own sales. As described above, the Representative is the "store" through which we primarily sell our products and, given the high rate of turnover among Representatives, which is a common characteristic of direct selling, it is critical that we recruit, retain and service Representatives on a continuing basis in order to maintain and grow our business.
From time to time, local governments and others question the legal status of Representatives or impose burdens inconsistent with their status as independent contractors, often in regard to possible coverage under social benefit laws that would require us (and, in most instances, the Representatives) to make regular contributions to government social benefit funds. Although we have generally been able to address these questions in a satisfactory manner, these questions can be raised again following regulatory changes in a jurisdiction or can be raised in other jurisdictions. If there should be a final determination adverse to us in a country, the cost for future, and possibly past, contributions could be so substantial in the context of the volume and profitability of our business in that country that we would consider discontinuing operations in that country.
Promotion and Marketing
Sales promotion and sales development activities are directed at assisting Representatives, through sales aids such as brochures, product samples and demonstration products. In order to support the efforts of Representatives to reach new customers, specially designed sales aids, promotional pieces, customer flyers, television advertising and print advertising may be used. In addition, we seek to motivate the Representatives through the use of special incentive programs that reward superior sales performance. Periodic sales meetings with Representatives are conducted by the district sales or zone managers. The meetings are designed to keep Representatives abreast of product line changes, explain sales techniques and provide recognition for sales performance.
We use a number of merchandising techniques, including promotional pricing for new products, combination offers, trial sizes and samples, and the promotion of products packaged as gift items. In most markets, for each sales campaign, we publish a distinctive brochure, in which we introduce new products and special promotions on selected items, or give particular prominence to a particular category. A key priority for our merchandising is to continue the use of analytical tools to enable a deeper, fact-based understanding of the role and impact of pricing within our product portfolio.
From time to time, various regulations or laws have been proposed or adopted that would, in general, restrict the frequency, duration or volume of sales resulting from new product introductions, special promotions or other special price offers. We expect our broad product lines and pricing flexibility to mitigate the effect of these regulations.