Best Buy sees tough year ahead

best buy

By Poroma Pant

Best Buy Co. Inc. turned in better than expected fourth quarter results Thursday, but also warned investors that sales and earnings will be under heavy pressure in 2016.

For the quarter ended Jan 30, the nation’s most prominent electronics retailer’s net income was $479 million, or $1.40 per diluted share, down from $519 million, or $1.46 per share, a year earlier.

Excluding non-operating items, the company posted adjusted earnings of $1.53 per diluted share, beating analysts estimates that it would earn $1.39 per share.

Revenue fell by 4.1% to $13.62 billion from $14.2 billion a year ago. The Minnesota based consumer-electronics vendor faced challenges in sales at stores open at least twelve months: the so-called “Comp-store sales” dropped by 1.7 percent, a worse decline than the 1.3 percent expected by analysts.

Best Buy

Electronics retail giant faces tough times ahead, following decline in revenue. (Poroma Pant/MEDILL)

The company noted that specific elements of the consumer electronics market drove down fourth quarter revenue.

“Strong performance in health & wearables, home theater and appliances was more than offset by softness in the mobile phone category and continued declines in tablets,” said Hubert Joly, chief executive offer in a conference call with analysts.

In a statement accompanying the financials release, Joly noted that across the industry, consumer electronics sales (comprised of TVs, computers, and tablets) were down 5.1% for the three months ending Jan 30 2016.

For the first quarter, Best Buy expects sales to be down 1 percent to 2 percent with total revenue of $8.25 billion to $8.35 billion, compared to the $8.4 billion analysts surveyed by S&P Global Market Intelligence have been expecting.

“We are expecting revenue declines in the first half followed by growth in the back half,” said Sharon McCollam, chief financial officer said in a statement.

Consumers ongoing migration to Amazon, and upgrade programs at vendors like Apple, will pose obstacles to the Best Buy’s long term revenue growth, noted orningstar Inc. analyst R.J. Hottovoy .

Like other “brick and mortar” chains, the company has come under heavy pressure from online competition.

“As key consumer electronics vendors increasingly take products directly to consumers,” Hottovoy wrote in an online commentary, “we expect many of Best Buy’s competitive advantages, including brand reputation and high traffic retail locations, may fade.”

While the company appeared to be doing a “good job” dealing with the challenges of operating in a tough sector, analysts at UBS AG said the headwinds it faces are daunting. “We don’t think the market will look past these challenges for at least the near-term,” said analyst Michael Goldsmith in a note.

Annual Net Income of Best Buy 2011-2016

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Amounts in $ million. (Poroma Pant/MEDILL)

The company’s net income for the complete fiscal year was $897 million or $2.56 per diluted share, a 27 percent decrease from $1.23 billion or $3.49 per diluted share the previous year.

For the full year, the chain reported an adjusted earnings of $2.78 per share on revenue of $39.52 billion, from adjusted earnings $2.60 on a revenue of $40.33 billion the previous year.

In a separate statement, the company announced that it plans to buy back $1billion worth of its stock over the next two years. It also boosted its quarterly dividend by 22 percent, to 28 cents a share, and issued a onetime 45-cent-a share special dividend.

In New York Stock Exchange trading Thursday, Best Buy shares increased by 77 cents, or 2.45 percent, to close at $32.24.

Weak demand for mobile phones added to Best Buy’s woes. (Mike Mozart/Flickr)