(By Balachander) Family Dollar Stores Inc. (NYSE:FDO) posted earnings and sales growth for the fourth quarter, matching market expectations, amid stronger sales of lower-margin consumables while the operator of self-service retail discount stores forecast gross margin pressure for 2013.
On an adjusted basis, earnings per share (EPS) increased to 13.6 percent to $0.75, coming in-line with Wall Street expectations.
Net income increased 1.4 percent to $80.93 million.
Sales rose 10.8 percent to $2.36 billion, matching market expectations. Comparable store sales gained 5.4 percent amid increase in customer traffic and higher average customer transaction value.
Gross margin contracted to 33.8 percent from 34.0 percent in the same period of last year.
Looking ahead for the first quarter, Matthews, North Carolina-based Family Dollar forecasts EPS between 69 cents and 78 cents, on comparable store sales growth in the range of 4 percent to 6 percent. Analysts expect EPS of 78 cents on sales of $2.37 billion.
"Our financial goals over the next three to five years are to consistently deliver: five to seven percent net new store growth; mid-single-digit comp sales growth; operating margin expansion, and double-digit earnings per share growth," said CEO Howard Levine. "Our plans for fiscal 2013 align nicely with these long-term goals."
For the full year 2013, the company expects EPS in the range of $4.10 to $4.40, higher than $3.58 reported for fiscal 2012 on comparable store sales to increase between 4 percent and 6 percent. Analysts expect EPS of $4.22 on total sales growth of 11.20 percent.
Family Dollar expects pressure on gross margins mainly due to an expanding mix of lower-margin consumables.
For the third quarter, the company earned $1.07 per share on sales of $2.36 billion.
The stock, which has been trading between $49.17 and $74.73 over the past year, closed Tuesday's regular trading at $66.00.