Best Buy Results Could Force New Lows

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Best Buy Co. Inc. (NYSE: BBY) reported first-quarter fiscal 2015 results before markets opened Thursday. The big-box retailer of electronics gear reported adjusted diluted earnings per share (EPS) of $0.33 and $9.04 billion in revenues. In the same period a year ago, Best Buy reported EPS of $0.32 on revenue of $9.35 billion. First-quarter results also compare to the Thomson Reuters consensus estimates for EPS of $0.20 and $9.21 billion in revenue.

Best Buy’s chief financial officer said that the quarter’s GAAP EPS totaled $1.31 as the result of an income tax effect related to a reorganization of the company’s European tax structure. This one-time benefit has previously been recognized on a periodic basis, but that will not be the case in the current fiscal year. As a result of the change, second- and third quarter EPS are expected to be flat to up a penny, and fourth-quarter EPS are forecast to be down $0.09 to $0.10, compared to the same periods a year ago.

Investors have reacted badly to the forecast. In the second quarter of the 2014 fiscal year, Best Buy posted EPS of $0.32, which will be no better than $0.33 this year, compared with a current consensus forecast of $0.34. For the full 2014 fiscal year, Best Buy posted EPS of $2.07, and based on the CFO’s comments 2015 EPS looks to come in around $2.00, well short of the current consensus estimate of $2.20.

U.S. same-store sales were down 1.3% year-over-year and international same-store sales fell 5.8%. Online sales in the United States rose 29.2%.

The company’s CEO said:

[W]e achieved market share gains in the U.S., fueled by our improved price competitiveness and an enhanced customer experience focused on advice, service and convenience. … Our non-GAAP operating income rate improved 30 basis points, driven by an SG&A cost reduction of $161 million, or 105 basis points as a percent of revenue, partially offset by a 75-basis point decline in gross profit rate.

The company’s CFO noted:

As we look forward to the second and third quarters, we are expecting to see ongoing industry-wide sales declines in many of the consumer electronics categories in which we compete. We are also expecting ongoing softness in the mobile phone category as consumers eagerly await highly-anticipated new product launches. Consequently, absent any major product launches, we are expecting comparable sales to be negative in the low-single digits in both the second and third quarters.

While EPS was strong, that is a one-off. Revenues came in far short of consensus and the outlook is more than very soft. Worse than the near-term outlook though is the absence of any growth driver on the horizon. Best Buy has been executing on its turnaround plans, but it is in a struggling business and it is getting little help from the companies whose goods its sells.

Shares were down about 3.5% in premarket trading, at $24.55 in a 52-week range of $22.15 to $44.66. Thomson Reuters had a consensus analyst price target of around $33.10 before these results were announced.

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