AutoZone Stock Stalls After Earnings Beat Estimates

AutoZone shares eased after the auto-parts retailer's fiscal-first-quarter earnings exceeded Wall Street's expectations. Gross margin narrowed a bit.
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Shares of AutoZone  (AZO) - Get Report eased after the auto-parts retailer reported fiscal-first-quarter results that exceeded analyst estimates. 

For the quarter ended Nov. 21 the Memphis company earned $18.61 a share on revenue of $3.154 billion. Analysts were expecting earnings of $17.57 on revenue of $3.147 billion. 

The company also said it would take a $50 million second-quarter charge to  enhance employee benefits. 

"Last week, we shared with all eligible AutoZoners that we have again made some significant benefit changes to encourage personal responsibility," Chief Executive Bill Rhodes said in a statement. 

"Most notably, we will offer another week of ‘emergency time-off,’ and we will allow an extended carryover of paid time off for much of the new calendar year."  

Domestic same-store sales rose 12.3% in the first quarter after climbing 3.4% in the year-earlier period. 

Gross-profit margin was 53.1%, 0.62 percentage point narrower than it was a year earlier.

AutoZone attributed the narrowing to one-time pandemic-related charges, increased loyalty program participation by current customers, and a shift in mix.

Operating expense as a percentage of sales was 33.6% versus 35.8% a year earlier.

The company opened 39 new stores in the U.S. and two in Brazil in the quarter.

And AutoZone bought back 584,379 shares at an average $1,161 each, or $678.3 million.

The company had paused its buyback "due to unprecedented uncertainty" and now is again "leveraging our consistently strong excess free cash flow, after healthy investments in growing the enterprise, to return cash to our shareholders" via the buyback, Rhodes said.

At last check AutoZone shares were 2.2% lower to $1,131.50.