State and Nation Business

Lowe's 1Q profit rises, but results miss Street

NEW YORK – Lowe's said Wednesday that its first-quarter net income rose nearly 3 percent, but results fell short of expectations as rainy weather hurt spring gardening sales.

The No. 2 home improvement retailer's results stood in contrast to those reported a day earlier by Home Depot. Lowe's larger rival reported an 18 percent rise in net income, bolstered by the improving housing market. Lowe's was hurt more by the rainy and cool spring.

"Temperatures were cooler and precipitation greater than normal for much of the quarter resulting in a delayed spring selling season," CEO Robert Niblock said in a call with analysts.

Janney Capital Markets analyst David Strasser said Lowe's has less of a California presence, and a greater dependency on lawn and garden products than Home Depot.

Revenue in stores open at least one year rose 3 percent for indoor products such as paint but declined 7 percent for outdoor products. Results were weaker in March but improved in April, Niblock said. Revenue in stores open at least one year have been positive in May as well, he said.

Its shares rose 85 cents, or 2 percent, to $43.30 in morning trading after rising as high as $43.84 earlier in the session, an all-time high.

For the period ended May 3, Lowe's Cos. earned $540 million, or 49 cents per share. That compares with $527 million, or 43 cents per share, a year ago.

Analysts polled by FactSet expected higher earnings of 51 cents per share for Lowe's.

Revenue for the Mooresville, N.C., company dipped to $13.09 billion from $13.15 billion. Wall Street expected a rise to $13.45 billion.

Revenue at stores open at least a year, a key gauge of a retailer's health, fell 0.7 percent. This figure excludes results from stores recently opened or closed.

Home-improvement retailers such as Lowe's, which runs 1,755 stores in the U.S., Canada and Mexico, have begun to see signs of improvement as the housing market turns a corner.

Lowe's Cos. has also revamped its pricing structure, offering what it says are permanent low prices on many items across the store instead of fleeting discounts. It has also focused on hiring more workers and improving its inventory.

Lowe's still expects fiscal 2013 earnings of about $2.05 per share, with revenue up approximately 4 percent. This implies revenue of $52.54 billion. Analysts forecast earnings of $2.09 per share on revenue of $52.39 billion.

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