Big Lots 4Q profit climbs on strength in U.S.

COLUMBUS, Ohio — The rapidly expanding retailer Big Lots posted a 4 percent jump in fourth-quarter net income and said earnings per share would likely rise by as much as 17 percent this year, yet shares dipped more than 3 percent Friday on its first-quarter outlook.

Big Lots first-quarter guidance is for adjusted earnings from continuing operations in a range of 75 to 81 cents per share, which is below the 82 cents forecast on Wall Street.

The company, which buys overstocked items ranging from food to housewares from manufacturers and sells them at a discount, earned $114.7 million, or $1.75 per share, for the period ended Jan. 28. That’s up from $110.1 million, or $1.46 per share, a year earlier.

The company just edged out most Wall Street expectations, according to a poll by FactSet.

Revenue increased 10 percent to $1.67 billion from $1.52 billion.

Sales for U.S. operations climbed 7.5 percent to $1.63 billion. In Canada, which includes results from Liquidation World which was acquired in July, sales were $36.6 million.

Revenue at U.S. stores open at least two years rose 3.4 percent. This metric is a key gauge of a retailer’s health because it excludes the volatility of stores recently opened or closed.

For the year, Big Lots earned $207.1 million, or $2.98 per share. That compares with earnings of $222.5 million, or $2.83 per share, in the previous year.

The per-share discrepancy is due to fewer outstanding shares in the current quarter. Big lots spent $46 million to repurchase 1.3 million shares.

Annual revenue climbed 5 percent to $5.2 billion from $4.95 billion.

Big Lots said, however that it anticipates an after-tax inventory charge of about $3.4 million, or 5 cents per share, in its fiscal first quarter.

The company foresees fiscal 2012 adjusted earnings from continuing operations between $3.40 and $3.50 per share. Revenue at U.S. stores open at least 15 months is expected to rise 2 percent to 3 percent.

Analysts predict 2012 earnings of $3.46 per share.

Big Lots Inc., based in Columbus, Ohio, had 1,451 stores in 48 states and 82 Liquidation World and LW stores in Canada as of Jan. 28.

Shares fell $1.57 to $42.92 in early trading.

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