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VOL. 127 | NO. 228 | Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Lowe's Third-Quarter Net Income Climbs on Fewer Charges

MAE ANDERSON | AP Retail Writer

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NEW YORK (AP) – Lowe's Cos. reports its third-quarter net income surged 76 percent, helped by lower costs and higher revenue, as the company's efforts to revamp its merchandise and prices appeared to be gaining traction.

Its adjusted earnings without charges and its revenue both beat Wall Street forecasts. Its shares rose over 6 percent Monday.

Lowe's has been retooling its pricing strategy, and last summer returned to offering permanent low prices on many items across the store, instead of offering fleeting discounts. But the changes have been slow to catch on, and last quarter Lowe's said it could take until the middle of next year to reap the benefits of the strategy.

"In the third quarter we furthered our efforts to strike the right promotional cadence, drove more items per ticket, and made tough decisions in order to manage capacity and further our progress on value improvement," CEO Robert Niblock said in a call with analysts.

The results are also the latest indication that home-improvement retailers and other housing-market related companies are benefiting from the beginning of a rebound in the housing market, with home prices and home sales growth both improving. Last week rival Home Depot Inc. reported slightly higher third-quarter net income and the company raised its full-year forecast.

In a phone interview with the Associated Press, Niblock said the bottoming out of home values is starting to make people feel better about their homes, but added there is a long way to go.

"We're certainly moving in right direction," he said. "But there's some concern with regard to the looming fiscal cliff and when and how that will be resolved that is on consumers minds as well."

Home Depot also said last week it benefited from a surge in sales late in the quarter from Superstorm Sandy preparations. Lowe's said so far the benefit from Sandy is about even with last year's benefit from Hurricane Irene, but there might be more benefit later as the recovery continues.

Lowe's earned $396 million, or 35 cents per share, for the three months ended Nov. 2. That compares with $225 million, or 18 cents per share, a year ago.

The current quarter includes charges that lowered earnings by 5 cents per share. In the prior-year period, charges reduced earnings by 18 cents per share.

The adjusted earnings of 40 cents per share beat the 36 cents per share that analysts polled by FactSet predicted.

Revenue rose 2 percent to $12.07 billion from $11.85 billion. That also beat Wall Street's estimate of $11.93 billion.

Transactions below $50 were up about 1.3 percent, and transactions above $500 were up about 2.5 percent. Strong categories included lumber and cabinets and countertops.

Revenue at stores open at least a year, a key gauge of a retailer's health, increased 1.8 percent. At its U.S. stores, the metric climbed by the same percentage rate. This figure excludes results from stores recently opened or closed.

For fiscal 2012, Lowe's still expected earnings of about $1.64 per share and revenue to be approximately the same as 2011's $50.21 billion. Analysts forecast earnings of $1.66 per share on revenue of $50.1 billion.

S&P analyst Michael Souers kept his "Sell" rating on the stock, saying it remains overvalued.

"We see Hurricane Sandy providing a modest boost to results near-term, but remain cautious on consumer spending," he wrote in a client note.

Lowe's Cos., which is based in Mooresville, N.C., has 1,750 stores in the U.S., Canada and Mexico.

Associated Press Writer Michelle Chapman contributed to this report

Copyright 2012 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

PROPERTY SALES 101 603 9,602
MORTGAGES 92 538 10,616
BUILDING PERMITS 215 1,282 20,958
BANKRUPTCIES 51 408 6,108