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DALLAS - Personal care giant Kimberly-Clark has unveiled a new strategic focus for the period to 2022 as it heads towards its 150 year anniversary.

Reporting a fourth quarter operating profit of US$639 million, including charges related to the 2018 Global Restructuring Program, down from $828 million in the same period last year, the company said its new plan's objectives were to deliver balanced and sustainable growth and to create shareholder value in what is assumed to be a continued challenging environment.

The plan, the company said, is focused on growing its iconic brand portfolio, leveraging its strong cost and financial discipline and allocating capital in value-creating ways. "Kimberly-Clark's three growth pillars are to elevate core businesses, accelerate growth in D&E markets and drive digital marketing and e-commerce," the company said in a statement. "(We) expect to achieve these pillars by launching differentiated product innovations, driving category development and leveraging commercial capabilities in sales and marketing."

Kimberly-Clark's said it intends to generate savings in order to fund growth initiatives and improve margins. Focus areas will include driving ongoing supply chain productivity improvements through the FORCE program, executing its 2018 Global Restructuring Program, rigorously controlling discretionary spending to sustain the company's overhead cost structure and driving further improvement in working capital.

For the fourth quarter, overall net sales dipped one per cent to $4.6 billion while in the Personal Care segment fourth quarter sales were $2.2 billion, down two per cent leading to an 11 per cent drop in operating profit to $436 million.

Sales in the key North America market increased four per cent due to higher volumes which were up mid-single digits in the infant and child care mega category, driven by growth in Pull-Ups training pants and GoodNites youth pants. Volumes were also up mid-single digits in adult care, led by Depend products.

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