Signet Jewelers Ltd. ( SIG) Q4 2012 Earnings Call March 22, 2012 8:30 am ET Executives Michael Barnes – Chief Executive Officer Ronald Ristau – Chief Financial Officer Tim Jackson – Director, Investor Relations Analysts Ike Boruchow – JP Morgan Bob Drbul – Barclays Jennifer Davis – Lazard Capital Markets Bill Armstrong – CL King & Associates David Wu – Telsey Advisory Group Rick Patel – Bank of America Jeff Stein – Northcoast Research Anthony Lebiedzinski – Sidoti & Co. Rod Whitehead – Deutsche Bank David Jeary – Investec Andrew Hughes - UBS Presentation Operator
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I will now hand over to Mike.Michael Barnes Thanks Tim, and good morning to you all. I’ll begin with the highlights of our excellent fiscal 2012 results. Same store sales were up 9%. The U.S., which represents about 80.9% of our sales, delivered same store sales results of 11.1%, which was outstanding after an increase of 8.9% last year. In the U.K., we’re pleased with the return to positive same store sales for the year in a very challenging environment. Income before income taxes was $502.1 million, an increase of 67.1%. After a tax grade of 35.4%, this gave diluted earnings per share of $3.73, up from $2.32 last year, an increase of 60.8%. I’d like to thank all the team members at Signet for their contribution to these great results. As most of you know, the Board approved two forms of shareholder distribution during fiscal 2012. First, a $0.10 per share quarterly dividend was initiated and we’re very pleased to announce today that the Board has now approved an increase in the quarterly dividend to $0.12, representing a 20% increase. Second, the Board authorized a $300 million share repurchase program effective from January 16, 2012. By January 28, we had already executed $11.8 million under the program, which continues to remain in effect. Now looking at the U.S. performance in a little bit more detail – U.S. total sales were $3.341 billion, up $289.9 million which was an increase of 10.6%. Kay increased same store sales by 11.8% in fiscal 2012, an acceleration from the 7% growth achieved in fiscal 2011. Jared had another outstanding year with comps up 12.1% for the year following an increase of 15.7% last year. Overall, U.S. same store sales increased by 11.1% in fiscal 2012 compared to 8.9% last year. Operating income was $478 million, and that was up $135.3 million or a 39.5% increase, and the operating margin increased by 330 basis points to 15.8%. This great performance was driven by all parts of the business working successfully together, but I’d like to highlight some of the major drivers for you.
First merchandising, where performance was driven by initiatives in all categories. For example, in bridal we rolled out Neil Lane Bridal and the Tolkowsky Diamond, and we began training our store associates using our enhanced bridal program in the second half of the year. In fashion, Charmed Memories continued to shine and was a non-comp for the first three quarters. Le Vian also performed very well. Our core collection showed great performance, in particular in the earring category. Overall, our differentiated ranges now account for about 26% of U.S. merchandise sales, which is up 400 basis points from last year. We’ve also been working strategically with our watch partners and we’ve been very pleased by the results achieved.We were successful in maintaining gross merchandise margin rate in the U.S. despite the significant increases in commodity costs. This reflects our ability to carefully execute price increases and build a pricing architecture that continues to provide attractive opening price points and hits other key price points along a broad spectrum with appropriate merchandise. Second, marketing – our marketing investment last year reached $188.4 million, up 16.7% and continues to be a driving force for the business. An important feature during the year was an increased focus on marketing support for the bridal category, including campaigns for the Leo Diamond and Neil Lane Bridal. We also started a multi-year investment in the digital environment with major upgrades to both the Kay and the Jared websites that were implemented for the holiday season. As a result, we saw a 45.7% increase in U.S. ecommerce sales in fiscal 2012. A third major driver of our performance was our in-house customer financing. The ability to offer customer finance is a must in the jewelry category, and to be able to manage it in-house is an important competitive strength. By carrying out this function in-house, we can tailor our scorecards to the jewelry customer which has different characteristics from when they make other credit transactions. Our in-house customer finance program was used by our customers for 56.1% of all U.S. sales in fiscal 2012, up 190 basis points. This, aided by the reduction in net bad debt, was an important contributor to the increase in operating margin in fiscal 2012. Read the rest of this transcript for free on seekingalpha.com