Analysts on average, according to Thomson Reuters, were expecting the specialty supermarket retailer to post earnings per share of 73 cents. Analysts reaffirmed their optimism regarding Whole Foods. "Because of the slower start to the period, a spate of softer retail sales reports, andinvestor misperceptions regarding management's motivation to step up price/valueefforts, the in-line comp-store sales result will be viewed as an important positive," William Blair analyst Mark Miller wrote in a note. "Slightly better gross margin also builds confidence that management can execute in an investor-friendly way in its ambition to capture a much bigger share of a huge industry."
Of the 29 sell-side analysts that cover the company, the majority -- 15 -- have "buy" ratings on the stock. Only two have "sell" ratings, according to Bloomberg. Miller has an "outperform" rating on the stock. "We believe Whole Foods can meet or exceed the high end of the fiscal 2013 EPS guidance range (which was raised), and we believe valuation can expand with a growing pipeline of new stores and rising return on capital," Miller wrote. Whole Foods narrowed its guidance for comparable and identical store sales growth ranges for the fiscal year, and raised full-year EPS guidance to a range to $2.86 to $2.89. The company now expects full-year sales growth between 12% and 14% and diluted earnings per share growth between 15% and 17%. Cantor Fitzgerald analyst Ajay Jain We reiterated his "buy" rating and said he expects further positive adjustments to earnings guidance by management over the next two quarters.
"We still view the updated earnings guidance as deliberately conservative," Jain wrote in a note. -- Written by Laurie Kulikowski in New York. Follow @LKulikowski To contact Laurie Kulikowski, send an email to: Laurie.Kulikowski@thestreet.com. >To submit a news tip, email: firstname.lastname@example.org.
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