Best Buy: Quarter better than expected; Home office sales surge

Best Buy's fourth quarter was better than anticipated even though profits were down from a year ago amid an economic downturn. The company also noted that the quarter ended stronger than it began indicating that consumer spending stabilized.

Best Buy's fourth quarter was better than anticipated even though profits were down from a year ago amid an economic downturn. The company also noted that the quarter ended stronger than it began indicating that consumer spending stabilized.  And the Circuit City liquidation certainly didn't hurt Best Buy's cause.

The company reported net income of $570 million, or $1.35 a share, on revenue of $14.7 billion. In the same quarter a year a year ago, Best Buy reported net income of $737 million, or $1.71 a share, on revenue of $13.4 billion. Excluding restructuring charges, Best Buy reported earnings of $1.61 a share well ahead of Thomson Reuters estimates of $1.40. 

Same store sales, however, fell 4.8 percent in the quarter (statement). Best Buy had cut its outlook, revised it and restructured to prepare for the downturn. The company said it cut its inventory more than it had expected and faced product shortages late in the quarter.  

For fiscal 2009 Best Buy reported earnings of $2.39 a share, down from $3.12 a share in fiscal 2008. Fiscal 2009 revenue was $45 billion, up from 13 percent a year ago. For the year ahead, Best Buy projected earnings of $2.50 to $2.90 a share on revenue of $46.5 billion to $48.5 billion. The company also projects same store sales to be flat to down 5 percent for the year. Analysts were expecting earnings of $2.45 a share. 

In a statement, Best Buy executives portrayed the year ahead as one focused on cost cutting and a rocky economy. However, the company should benefit from the liquidation of Circuit City. A negative factor is likely to be increased competition from Wal-Mart, which is increasingly focused on electronics. Best Buy estimated that its market share improved to almost 22 percent. 

Best Buy CFO Jim Muehlbauer said:

We expect consumer spending to remain challenging in fiscal 2010, and the complex mix of external factors that will influence their behavior makes forecasting the future increasingly difficult. 

Best Buy's breakdown of sales showed a few interesting cross currents. For instance, consumer electronics sales fell 8.6 percent and entertainment software fell 11 percent. Home office equipment surged 8.1 percent in the fourth quarter and notebook PC sales showed small gains.  

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