(By Balachander) AutoZone Inc. (NYSE: AZO), a retailer of automotive replacement parts, posted a 5.6 percent increase in quarterly earnings, helped by sales growth and improvement in margins. Bottom-line beat market expectations, while sales were slightly short of consensus.
Earnings were $176.2 million or $4.78 per share for the second quarter, up from $166.9 million or $4.15 per share in the year-ago quarter. Wall Street analysts, on average, expected earnings of $4.76 per share.
Net sales rose 2.8 percent to $1.85 billion, while consensus estimates called in for a growth of 4.20 percent. Sales for stores open at least one year fell 1.8 percent for the three months ended Feb. 9.
AutoZone said total domestic auto parts same store sales for the last two weeks decreased by 8 percent.
"Our belief is the approximate two week delay in processing of income tax returns this year was the key contributor to this decline in sales.," commented CEO Bill Rhodes. "Our expectation is sales in the upcoming quarter should recover to more normalized sales volumes."
Gross margin improved to 51.9 percent from 51.3 percent.
Inventory rose 7.0 percent, helped by higher store count and continued strategic investments in hard parts assortment, the company noted.
As of Feb. 9, 2013, the Memphis, Tennessee-based company had 4,735 stores in 49 states, the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico in the U.S. and 334 stores in Mexico for a total store count of 5,070.
AZO ended Monday's regular trading at $378.54. The stock has been trading in the 52-week range between $341.98 and $399.10.