(By Balachander) AutoZone Inc. (NYSE: AZO) posted a 6.5 percent increase in quarterly earnings, helped by sales growth and improvement in margins. The retailer of automotive replacement parts also agreed to acquire AutoAnything, an online retailer of specialized automotive products.
Earnings were $203.5 million or $5.41 per share for the first quarter, up from $191.1 million or $4.68 per share in the year-ago quarter. Wall Street analysts, on average, expected earnings of $5.39 per share.
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Net sales rose 3.5 percent to $2.0 billion, while consensus estimates called in for a growth of 5.20 percent. Sales for stores open at least one year inched 0.2 percent higher for the three months ended Nov. 17.
"While this past quarter's sales results were lower than planned, they were not surprising to us," commented CEO Bill Rhodes. "Regional sales discrepancies continued to challenge our results, however we began to see improvements in our more challenged regions late in the quarter."
Gross margin improved to 51.8 percent from 51.1 percent.
Inventory rose 6.8 percent, helped by new store openings, the company noted.
As of Nov.17, 2012, the Memphis, Tennessee-based company had 4,703 stores in 49 states, the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico in the U.S. and 325 stores in Mexico for a total store count of 5,029.
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AZO ended Monday's regular trading at $378.01. The stock has been trading in the 52-week range between $313.11 and $399.10.