By ASHLEY M. HEHER

CHICAGO (AP) ¿ Staples is scheduled to report results for the fourth quarter on Wednesday. The following is a summary of key developments and analyst opinion related to the period.

OVERVIEW: Staples Inc., the world's largest office products retailer, has seen its sales its increase due to last year's acquisition of the Netherlands-based Corporate Express NV. But excluding those gains, Staples' income slumped through the first three quarters of 2008.

During the fourth quarter, Framingham, Mass.-based Staples said it priced an offering of $1.5 billion senior notes due 2014 at a 9.75 percent coupon.

Staples was selling the debt to repay part of its outstanding commercial paper loans, its 2008 credit agreement and a revolving credit facility. Staples expects the offering will generate about $1.49 billion in proceeds after the underwriting discount.

In December, Staples voluntarily reduced its existing credit agreement to $2.75 billion from $3 billion.

BY THE NUMBERS: Analysts polled by Thomson Reuters predict a profit of 42 cents per share on revenue of $6.85 billion for the quarter.

ANALYST TAKE: Deutsche Bank analyst Mike Baker last week predicted Staples will fare better in the recession than its struggling competitors, OfficeMax Inc. and Office Depot Inc.

"Longer term, with (Staples') two main competitors seeing large deteriorations in trends, we believe (Staples) is positioned to gain significant share, which underpins our 'Buy' rating," he said in a recent note to clients.

WHAT'S AHEAD: Analysts will be looking for the company's 2009 guidance, and how Staples expects the office supply industry to fare as the recession continues and corporate customers continue to trip expenses.

STOCK PERFORMANCE: During the quarter ended Jan. 31, shares fell about 18 percent to end the period at $15.94.
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