Ulta Stuns Investors With Amazing Earnings and Guidance

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Ulta Salon, Cosmetics & Fragrance, Inc. (NASDAQ: ULTA) released its fourth-quarter earnings report after markets closed on Thursday. The company had $1.69 in earnings per share (EPS) on $1.27 billion in revenue compared to Thomson Reuters consensus estimates that called for $1.54 in EPS on $1.23 billion in revenue. The same period from last year had $1.35 in EPS on $1.05 billion in revenue.

Comparable sales increased 12.5% compared to an increase of 11.1% in the fourth quarter of last year. The 12.5% same store sales increase was driven by 8.6% growth in transactions and 3.9% growth in average ticket. At the same time, E-commerce sales grew 44.2% to $94.8 million from $65.7 million.

During the fourth quarter, the company repurchased 262,342 shares of its stock at a cost of approximately $46 million. Ulta’s board of directors approved a new share repurchase authorization of $425 million, effective March 15, which replaces the prior authorization implemented in September 2014.

In terms of guidance for the first quarter, the company expects to have EPS in the range of $1.25 to $1.30 and revenues in the range of $1.016 billion to $1.033 billion, with comparable sales increasing 9% to 11%. There are consensus estimates that call for $1.22 in EPS on $1.01 billion in revenue.

Mary Dillon, CEO of Ulta, commented:

Our fourth quarter results capped an exceptional year during which we made significant progress against our strategic imperatives, while achieving outstanding sales and earnings growth. We continue to benefit from the powerful combination of strong demand in the beauty category and Ulta Beauty’s highly differentiated offering that propels our business to transcend prevailing trends across the retail landscape. Today we are pleased to announce an accelerated share repurchase plan that demonstrates our commitment to creating and returning value to shareholders.

On the books, cash, equivalents, and short-term investments totaled $475.8 million at the end of the quarter compared to $539.3 million in the same period last year.

Shares of Ulta closed Thursday up 2.8% at $163.39, with a consensus analyst price target of $190.61 and a 52-week trading range of $120.38 to $188.48. Following the release of the earnings report, the stock was up 11% at $181.48 in the after-hours trading session.