By Steven Porter
AutoZone Inc., the leading retailer of replacement car parts, posted better-than-expected earnings Tuesday, reaping the benefit for higher profit margins on its merchandise.
The company reported net earnings of $228.6 million, or $7.43 per diluted share, for the second quarter ended Feb. 13, an increase of 8 percent over the $211.7 million, or $6.51 per share, earned the same period a year prior.
The announcement surpassed even the most optimistic expectations. Analysts surveyed by Yahoo! Finance had forecast earnings of $7.28 per share.
Revenue, meanwhile, increased 5 percent to $2.26 billion from $2.14 billion in second-quarter 2015.
During mid-day trading Tuesday, AutoZone shares were up $15.15, or about 2 percent, to $789.72, as they continued their upward trajectory the company has managed to sustain for more than five years.
Twenty-five analysts surveyed by Bloomberg set an aggregate target price at $825 per share.
Past five years
Tuesday’s announcement marked the 38th consecutive quarter of double-digit earnings-per-share growth, AutoZone CEO Bill Rhodes said in a prepared statement.
“Our results to date continue to meet or exceed our expectations, further confirming our new inventory deployment strategy,” Rhodes added. “While we continue to strategically invest in our business in order to support our growth, we remain committed to our disciplined approach to growing operating earnings and utilizing our capital effectively.”
AutoZone opened 30 new stores in the U.S. during the quarter, bringing its total to 5,193 locations.
Adam Fleck, an analyst with Morningstar Inc., said in a report that AutoZone’s success has depended largely on the number of miles consumers are driving, so if people start driving less, the company’s revenues will likely falter.
“An economic recovery may also cause an influx of new-car sales, which could increase scrappage rages for older vehicles, thereby reducing demand for maintenance and failure auto parts,” Fleck added.
Since shares are trading above Morningstar’s valuation of the company, Fleck advised investors to wait for the price to drop.
Counting its retail stores in Mexico and Brazil — plus 24 branches of parts distribution chain Interamerican Motor Corp., which AutoZone bought in 2014 — the company operates a total of 5,676 sites worldwide.
So far in fiscal year 2016, AutoZone has reported net earnings of $486.7 million, or $15.72 per diluted share, an increase of 8 percent over the same period a year prior.
Revenues, meanwhile, rose to $4.64 billion, up 5 percent from $4.40 billion in the first half of fiscal year 2015.