Clorox is famous for bleach and cleaning products.
But over the years, the Oakland, Calif.-based multinational has acquired non-bleachy products like Glad bags and wraps, plus Kingsford and Match Light charcoal. These two lines, along with Clorox liquid bleach, are the company’s biggest sellers.
Clorox also manufactures and markets Hidden Valley salad dressings and foods, Fresh Step cat litter, Soy Vay sauces, Burt’s Bees products, Brita water filtration systems, Green Works, Pine-Sol, Liquid-Plumr, Tilex, and a variety of other laundry and cleaning products, as well as disinfectants for homes, businesses and the healthcare sector.
Most of the company’s products hold a No. 1 or No. 2 market share in their categories, the company said.
Clorox was founded in Oakland, Calif., in 1913 and still has its corporate headquarters there. But the company manages all foreign operations from the Miami international division headquarters, which oversees its businesses in Latin America, Canada, Europe, the Middle East, Asia, Africa, Australia and New Zealand.
Clorox opened a regional office in Miami in the late 1990s, and it became the international division in 2011.
Last year, Clorox added its Canadian business operations to the division, so it now has responsibility for overseeing all Clorox operations outside the United States. The Miami office has 15 employees.
Miami-based Michael Costello, a chemical engineer who joined Clorox in 1988, was named senior vice president of the international division in 2013. Costello was not available to speak with the Miami Herald for this article.
Clorox, whose name is a combination of the basic ingredients chlorine and sodium hydroxide, owns or leases 24 manufacturing facilities in North America and 15 plants in other parts of the world, marketing products in more than 100 countries.
Overseas, Clorox sells some brands that appear on the North American market, as well as brands attuned to local markets, like Mistolín, PinoLuz and Bon Bril cleaning products in Latin America.
The international division gets products to consumers overseas in a variety of ways, such as sales to retail groups by local Clorox manufacturing subsidiaries, distributors, licensees, joint ventures with local partners and online retailers.
Net sales in Clorox’s international division account for 20 percent of the company’s total sales. In fiscal year 2014, which ended June 30, 2014, Clorox’s overall net sales were nearly $5.5 billion, of which about $1.2 billion came from the international division. For the first three quarters of fiscal 2015, Clorox reported total net sales of more than $4 billion and international sales of $820 million.
Despite the popularity of Clorox products in Latin America, the company’s operations in Venezuela and Argentina have been key problems for the international division.
Argentina, which is getting ready for national elections in October, including the election of a new president, has been applying price controls on Clorox’s popular products, which can cause financial losses. The country also has suffered from high inflation and currency devaluation, which means that Clorox sales in the local currency are worth progressively less when the company wishes to repatriate dividends in dollars to the U.S. It also means that when Clorox needs to import raw materials, which are usually priced in U.S. dollars, imports cost more in local currency as it loses value.
In Venezuela, the situation is much worse. Clorox has production facilities there — Corporación Clorox de Venezuela S.A. — which were taken over by the government after the company ceased operations due to serious financial problems and supply disruptions resulting from government policies, according to Clorox.
Clorox started operating in Venezuela in 1990 and has offices in Caracas and three manufacturing sites in other parts of the country.
The government of Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro placed strict price controls on most retail products and heavy restrictions on the operations of private companies like Clorox. Clorox Venezuela has been struggling under government restriction and controls for several years, lost money in fiscal 2014 and projected even greater losses in the future.
The country has the highest inflation in the region — expected to reach 100 percent this year — and the International Monetary Fund is predicting that the economy could shrink by 7 percent in 2015. The value of the Venezuelan currency has plummeted against the U.S. dollar.
As a result, Clorox discontinued its operations in Venezuela in September 2014, ceasing all production and shutting down its plants.
The company attempted to sell its Venezuelan assets, but the Venezuelan government stepped in and occupied its facilities, saying it would operate them without Clorox.
Clorox is seeking compensation from the Venezuelan government.
Despite the government’s takeover of Clorox Venezuela, the international division continues normal operations in the rest of Latin America, and the company said its financial outlook would not be impacted by the loss of its Venezuelan operations.
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The Clorox Company
Business: Clorox is a multinational manufacturer and marketer of consumer and professional products sold in more than 100 countries. While Clorox got its start producing and selling its namesake liquid bleach, the company today makes and sells a wide range of cleaning, household and lifestyle products. Among them are Glad trash bags, plastic wrap and food containers; Kingsford charcoal; Hidden Valley foods; Burt’s Bees products; Brita water filtering systems; Fresh Step cat litter; Pine-Sol cleaners; Liquid-Plumr, as well as Clorox bleaches and cleaning products, for home, the healthcare sector and commercial use. Clorox’s Miami-based international division is responsible for businesses in Canada, Latin America, Europe, Asia, the Middle East, Africa, Australia and New Zealand.
Headquarters: Oakland, California.
International division headquarters: 3150 SW 38th Ave., Miami. Clorox opened a regional office in Miami in the late 1990s, and it became the international division headquarters in 2011.
Founded: 1913 in Oakland as the Electro-Alkaline Co.
Founders: Five businessmen invested $100 each to set up a company to produce commercial liquid bleach. Another investor was William Murray, whose wife, Annie, gave away sample bottles of Clorox at the family’s grocery store in downtown Oakland and popularized the new product. William Murray took over as the firm’s first general manager in 1916.
CEO: Benno Dorer
International leadership: Michael Costello, Clorox senior vice president for the international division since 2013.
Employees: 7,700 worldwide, about 15 in the Miami office.
Ownership: Traded on the NYSE (Symbol: CLX).
Revenues: Nearly $5.5 billion in net sales for fiscal 2014, which ended June 30, 2014; for the first three quarters of fiscal 2015, net sales were just over $4 billion. The international division accounts for about 20 percent of total company sales.
Websites: thecloroxcompany.com and clorox.com