Costco's 4Q results top Wall Street expectations

ISSAQUAH, Wash. – Shoppers continue to head to Costco in search of deals, helping the wholesale club operator's fiscal fourth-quarter net income and revenue climb. Its performance beat Wall Street's expectations, and its shares rose 4 percent in morning trading.

Consumers have been drawn to stores like Costco, BJ's Wholesale Club and Sam's Club because they feel like they are getting bargains by purchasing items in bulk. Memberships at such stores have continued to rise in recent years as shoppers worried about the economy and high unemployment look for ways to save money.

For the period ended Sept. 2, Costco Wholesale Corp. said Wednesday that it earned $609 million, or $1.39 per share. That compares with $478 million, or $1.08 per share, a year earlier.

Analysts predicted earnings of $1.31 per share, according to a FactSet survey.

David Strasser of Janney Capital Markets said in a client note that Costco had a solid quarter, as the company managed its profit margins and selling, general and administrative expenses relatively well. The analyst maintained a "Buy" rating.

Revenue increased 14 percent to $32.22 billion from $28.18 billion as sales improved and the Issaquah, Wash., company made more money from membership fees.

Wall Street expected revenue of $31.59 billion.

Revenue at stores open at least a year, a key gauge of a retailer's health, climbed 5 percent. The figure rose 6 percent in the U.S. and 2 percent internationally.

Revenue at stores open at least a year excludes results from stores recently opened or closed.

Costco said higher gas prices hurt and foreign currency exchange rates hurt its performance a bit.

Stripping out their impact, revenue at stores open at least a year rose 6 percent for the total company and for its U.S. locations. Clubs overseas reported a 7 percent increase.

Costco said that its full-year net income rose 17 percent to $1.71 billion, or $3.89 per share, from $1.46 billion, or $3.30 per share, in the previous year. Annual revenue climbed 12 percent to $99.14 billion from $88.92 billion.

Revenue at stores open at least a year increased 7 percent for the total company and U.S. clubs. Internationally, the metric rose 6 percent.

Excluding the impact of higher gas prices and foreign currency exchange rates, the figure climbed 6 percent for the total company and U.S. clubs. It rose 8 percent abroad.

Costco ended fiscal 2012 with 608 warehouses in operation, including 439 in the U.S. and Puerto Rico, 82 in Canada, 32 in Mexico, 22 in the U.K., 13 in Japan, nine in Taiwan, eight in Korea and three in Australia.

Costco shares climbed $4.03 to $103.61 on Wednesday. Its shares peaked for the year at $103.51 on Sept. 21. They traded as low as $78.81 in early January.

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