Dollar General Corporation's CEO Discusses Q4 2011 Results - Earnings Call Transcript

Dollar General Corporation (DG)

Q4 2011 Earnings Conference Call

March 22, 2012, 10:00 AM ET

Executives

Mary Winn Gordon – Vice President of Investor Relations and Public Relations

Rick Dreiling – Chairman & CEO

David Tehle – Chief Financial Officer

Analysts

Mark Montagna – Avondale Partners

John Heinbockel – Guggenhiem Securities

Deborah Weinswig – Citi

Dan Wewer – Raymond James

Paul Simenauer – JPMorgan

Wayne Hood – BMO Capital

Edgar Roesch – Nomura Securities

Teresa Dillon – Wells Fargo Securities

Charles Grom - Deutsche Bank

Scot Ciccarelli with RBC Capital Markets

Denise Chai - Bank of America

John Connor – Barclays Capital

Colin McGranahan - Bernstein

Trey Schorgl – Credit Suisse

David Mann – Johnson Rice

Presentation

Operator

Ladies and gentlemen, this is the Dollar General Corporation fourth quarter 2011 conference call on Thursday, March 22 nd, 2012, at 9 AM Central Time. Good morning and thank you for your participation in today’s call, which is being recorded by Conference America. No other recordings or rebroadcast of this session are allowed without the company’s permission.

It is now my pleasure to turn the conference over to Ms. Mary Winn Gordon, Dollar General’s Vice President of Investor Relations and Public Relations.

Mary Winn Gordon

Thank you, Linsey, and good morning everyone. Linsey, are you there?

Operator

Yes, ma’am.

Mary Winn Gordon

Okay, just we heard a noise here. So, thank you and good morning everyone. On the call today are Rick Dreiling, our Chairman and CEO; and David Tehle, our Chief Financial Officer. We will first go through our prepared remarks and then we will open the call up for questions.

Let me caution that today’s comments will include forward-looking statements about our expectations, plans, objectives, anticipated financial and operating results and other matters. For example, our 2012 forecasted financial results and initiatives, expectations regarding potential debt and share repurchases, debt refinancing and capital expenditures and comments regarding expected consumer economic trends are forward-looking statements.

You can identify forward-looking statements because they do not relate solely to historical matters or they contain words such as believe, anticipate, project, plan, expect, forecast, guidance, experience will likely result, or will continue.

Important factors that could cause actual results to differ materially from those reflected in the forward-looking statements are included in our fourth quarter earnings release issued this morning and in our 2011 10-K, which we also filed this morning and in the comments that are made on this call. You should not unduly rely on these statements, which speak only as of today’s date. Dollar General disclaims any obligation to update or revise any information discussed in this call.

We will also reference certain financial measures not derived in accordance with GAAP. The calculation of ROIC can be located on our Website at dollargeneral.com under Investor Information, Conference Calls and Investor Events, below the link the webcast for this call.

All other reconciliations to the most comparable GAAP measures are included in this morning’s release, which can be found on our Website under Investor Information press releases. This information is not a substitute for the GAAP measures and may not be comparable to similarly titled measures of other companies.

Finally, before I turn the call over to Rick, I would like to mention to all of the analysts and investors on the call to hold the date for our Analyst Day in Nashville, beginning on Monday evening, June 25 th through Tuesday, June 26 th. We will be sending out invitations with more details in the next couple of weeks. So, please call us if you think you are not on our list to get the invitation.

Now, it’s my pleasure to turn the call over to Rick.

Rick Dreiling

Thank you, Mary Winn and thanks to everyone for joining our call today. 2011 was another great year for Dollar General. We were very pleased with our financial results for the full year and for the fourth quarter. The results indicate that we are becoming even more relevant to our customers as we once again saw increases in our overall market share in consumables in both units and dollars.

David is going to talk about the details of the fourth quarter, but I would like to quickly reflect on our financial accomplishments for the year. Full-year sales increased 13.6% to a record $14.8 billion. Excluding the 53 rd week, full-year sales increased to 11.4% and sales per square foot increased to $209 compared to $201 a year ago. Sales for average store topped $1.5 million.

2011 marked our 22 nd consecutive year of same-store sales growth. Same-store sales were up 6% for the year, with all of our operating regions again turning in positive comps. Our adjusted operating profit grew 17% over last year to a record $1.5 billion and a record 10.2% of sales.

Gross margin rate contraction of 31 basis points for the year was more than offset by strong adjusted SG&A leverage of 62 basis points. Although the rate is down year-over-year, I should remind you that a 31.7% gross margin rate represents expansion of 246 basis points over 2008, just three years ago. This is a significant accomplishment during a sustained difficult economic environment.

Interest expense was down $69 million for the year as we made additional progress to reducing our high interest rate debt. On the bottom line, our adjusted net income increased 26% over 2010. In addition, we produced over $1 billion of cash growth from operations, a 27% increase over last year, and we further strengthened our balance sheet to significant debt reduction.

For the year, we generated an impressive return on invested capital of 22.1%. Our financial results continue to be a testament to the strength of our business model. It is clear that our strategy of small box convenience combined with great value resonates with consumers.

In addition to our impressive financial results, we accomplished a great deal in 2011 on the business side as well, laying for groundwork for 2012 and beyond. We continue to strengthen our infrastructure and upgrade the systems and technologies we use to operate the business. Across the board, we are better equipped to grow than we were a few years ago. We hit our target of opening 625 new stores and remodeling or relocating 575 stores in 2011, increasing our selling square footage by 7%. Most of this growth was in our existing 35 states, but in 2011, we expanded our footprint into Connecticut, New Hampshire and Nevada, our first new state since 2006, and we also launched our e-commerce site.

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