Staples’ Loss Brings Out Buyers

Staples Inc. (NASDAQ: SPLS) reported third-quarter fiscal 2013 adjusted diluted earnings per share (EPS) of $0.46 and $6.35 billion in revenues before the markets opened this morning. In the same period a year ago, the office supply retailer reported EPS of $0.46 on revenue of $6.48 billion. These results also compare to the Thomson Reuters consensus estimates for EPS of $0.45 and $6.45 billion in revenue.

On a GAAP basis, Staples posted a net loss of $0.85 per share, compared with last year’s EPS of $0.46. The excluded items included impairment charges, restructuring, accelerated amortization and related tax charges during the third quarter totaling about $259 million.

The company’s CEO said:

During the third quarter we launched a new strategic plan to become the product authority for businesses, restructured our organization, and generated solid earnings excluding charges. Going forward, we are in a much stronger position to pursue our best growth opportunities.

Staples provided guidance for the full-fiscal year of flat sales compared with fiscal 2011. Full-year adjusted EPS is expected to increase in the low single-digits, compared with last year’s EPS of $1.37. The company expects to take fourth-quarter charges of $160 million to $200 million in one-time items.

The one-time charges have all been applied to trying to right the ship, but operationally sales are down 2% year-over-year and operating income is down 30 basis points, primarily due to lower margins. International sales fell 12% year-over-year and international same-store sales fell 6%, compared with a drop of 1% in North America. For the quarter, same-store sales fell 2.6% across all the company’s divisions.

Competitors Office Depot Inc. (NYSE: ODP) and OfficeMax Inc. (NYSE: OMX) are struggling as well, and a tie-up between the two is rumored. Inc. (NASDAQ: AMZN) is forcing Staples to spend more time and money to drive growth in its online business. Whether Staples can pull this off remains uncertain.

Shares are up almost 5% in premarket trading, at $11.80, in a 52-week range of $10.57 to $16.93. With more than 12% of the company’s shares held short, one might wonder if the rise is due to short covering early. Thomson Reuters had a consensus analyst price target of $12.60 before today’s results were announced.

Paul Ausick

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