updated 8/2/2004 9:19:40 AM ET 2004-08-02T13:19:40

Procter & Gamble Co. reported Monday that its earnings soared 44 percent in its fourth fiscal quarter with growth in its beauty and health care businesses pushing its full-year sales past $50 billion for the first time.

The huge consumer products company said it earned $1.37 billion, or 50 cents per share, for the three months ended June 30, up from $955 million, or 34 cents per share, in a same period a year ago.

Earnings beat the 48 cent per share estimate of analysts surveyed by Thomson First Call.

April-June sales increased to $12.96 billion from $10.92 billion a year earlier.

For the fiscal year, P&G earned $6.48 billion, or $2.32 per share, on sales of $51.4 billion, up from 2003 earnings of $5.19 billion, or $1.85 per share, on sales of $43.3 billion.

“This is the third consecutive year of broad-based strength across businesses and geographies, demonstrating the power of focused strategies and the sustained benefits of the systemic and structural changes we made over the past several years,” said A.G. Lafley, chairman, president and chief executive.

The improvement continued a long, steady climb under the guidance of Lafley, who took over as P&G’s president and chief executive in June 2000 after the company’s stock had fallen by 52 percent that year to $56.75.

The company is confident it will meet or exceed its long-term growth targets, Lafley said.

The company’s products include Folgers coffee, Crest toothpaste and Crest Whitestrips, Pampers diapers, Olay beauty products, Pringles snack chips and Tide detergent.

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