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VOL. 131 | NO. 191 | Friday, September 23, 2016

AutoZone Grows Quarterly Profit 6.4 Percent

By Andy Meek

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For 40 straight quarters now, Memphis-based auto parts retailer AutoZone has delivered double-digit earnings per share growth.

The company during its just-ended quarter grew its net income 6.4 percent over the year-ago period to $426.8 million. Earnings per share grew 12.2 percent to $14.30 per share.

Those were among the results the company shared with analysts and the investment community Thursday, Sept. 22, part of AutoZone’s now familiar presentation that includes regular sales growth and store count expansion whenever it reports earnings.

Part of that is driven by the realities of its industry. AutoZone chairman, president and CEO Bill Rhodes noted that continued low gas prices, higher vehicle sales and an increase in miles driven keep paying dividends for his company. Which is why, when looking to 2017, he’s confident “we can grow sales in all of our upcoming quarters.”

About the company’s fiscal fourth quarter, which ended Aug. 27, the company said it grew net sales 3.3 percent to $3.4 billion. Domestic same-store sales – which are sales at stores open for at least one year – grew 1 percent during the quarter.

Over the past year, Rhodes added, the company hit a number of milestones, including generating $10.6 billion in sales and opening 156 new domestic AutoZone stores. He said the company is also continuing to expand its supply chain network with the already announced planned openings of two to three new domestic distribution centers over the next few years.

“We manage this business focusing on both short- and long-term performance,” Rhodes said, adding that the company has also expanded its megahub count to 11.

Those are locations that provide deliveries to surrounding stores and to other hub stores multiple times a day or on an overnight basis.

The company is holding its national sales meeting in Memphis next week, and it will be focused largely on customer service. Rhodes told analysts the company has more ways the ever to fulfill customer desires and that AutoZone is “making ongoing systems enhancements to capture data about our customers’ shopping patterns across all our platforms” – including stores, online and phones.

Among the quarter’s other highlights:

During the company’s fiscal fourth quarter, AutoZone opened 71 new stores in the U.S. That grew the company’s total count to 5,814.

AutoZone also bought back 482,000 shares of its common stock for $370 million during the quarter. At the end of the quarter, the company had $395 million remaining under its current share repurchase authorization.

A Raymond James analyst report about AutoZone’s results distributed Thursday morning said the company delivered “slightly better-than-plan” earnings per share results during the quarter. While cutting disappointment with below-plan comparable sales growth in addition to decelerating commercial sales growth, the report noted that “our long-term bullish thesis” about the company remains intact.

At the end of its fiscal year in August, sales stood at $10.6 billion for the year, up 4.4 percent from a year earlier. Domestic same-store sales were up 2.4 percent for the year, and operating profit was up 5.5 percent on an operating margin of 19.4 percent.

For fiscal 2016, AutoZone’s net income also increased 7 percent to $1.2 billion, and the company grew its earnings per share for the year 13 percent to $40.70.

PROPERTY SALES 21 82 6,474
MORTGAGES 7 53 4,088
BUILDING PERMITS 240 353 15,714
BANKRUPTCIES 38 58 3,328