Why Costco Keeps Beating Profit Estimates

Print Email

Costco Wholesale Corp. (NASDAQ: COST) reported fiscal 2018 first-quarter results after markets closed on Thursday. The big-box club store posted quarterly diluted earnings per share (EPS) of $1.45 on revenue of $31.12 billion. In the same period a year ago, Costco reported EPS of $1.24 on revenue of $27.47 billion. First-quarter results also compare to the Thomson Reuters consensus estimates for EPS of $1.34 and $31.48 billion in revenue.

Net income of $640 million (versus $545 million in the year-ago quarter) was positively affected by a $41 million ($0.09 per diluted share) tax benefit related to a change in accounting rules on stock-based compensation. Last year the company posted a $51 million ($0.07 per share) benefit in the same period.

The company’s profits are driven by membership fees. In the quarter, membership fees accounted for $692 million of Costco’s total revenues, up 9.8% year over year. Costco raised membership fees in June.

Consolidated same-stores sales rose 10.5% year over year in the first quarter, with gains of 10.3% domestically, 11.3% in Canada and 10.1% internationally. Excluding gasoline sales and currency exchange effects, consolidated same-store sales rose 7.9%, with a rise of 8.7% in the United States, 4.3% in Canada and 7.9% internationally.

The company said e-commerce sales rose 43.5% in the quarter, slightly higher than the 42.1% gain in the same quarter a year ago. It is worth noting that even though Costco started from a low base, this stacked growth is impressive.

Operating income rose by $102 million from $849 million to $951 million. Merchandise costs rose by 13.7% to $27.62 billion, and SG&A expenses were up by about 9.7% to $3.22 billion.

Costco noted that there was one fewer sales day in the quarter but that the pre-Thanksgiving and Black Friday sales fell into first-quarter results. The combined effect added about 1.5% to U.S. sales and “slightly less worldwide.”

The company did not publish any guidance, but consensus estimates for the company’s second fiscal quarter call for EPS of $1.40 on revenues of $32.42 billion. For the full 2018 fiscal year, EPS are expected to come in at $6.46 on revenues of $137.52 billion.

Shares closed down about 1% on Thursday at $186.53 and traded up by about 2.7% in the Friday’s premarket session at $191.50. The stock’s 52-week trading range is $150.00 to $191.22. The consensus 12-month price target was $185.81 before results were announced. The high price target is $205.00.