Welcome to Bed Bath and Beyond’s fourth quarter of fiscal 2009 results conference call. (Operator Instructions) Now, at this time it is my pleasure to turn the conference over to Gene Castagna, Chief Financial Officer and Treasurer of Bed Bath and Beyond. Mr. Castagna please go ahead.
Thank you and good afternoon. Welcome to Bed Bath and Beyond’s fourth quarter fiscal 2009 conference call. Within the past hour we issued a press release announcing Bed Bath and Beyond’s results for the three and 12 month period ended February 27, 2010.
During this call we will comment on some of the fourth quarter highlights and provide our fiscal 2010 planning assumptions. Before proceeding I will read the following statement, “Bed Bath and Beyond’s fiscal fourth quarter press release and comments made during this call may contain forward-looking statements within the meaning of Section 21E of the Securities & Exchange Act of 1934 as amended. Many of these forward-looking statements can be identified by the use of words such as may, will, expect, anticipate, estimate, assume, project, plan and similar words and phrases.
The company’s actual results or future financial condition may differ materially from those expressed in any such forward-looking statements as a result of many factors that may be outside of the company’s control. Please refer to Bed, Bath & Beyond’s SEC filings including its Form 10K for the year ended February 28, 2009. The company does not undertake any obligation to update its forward-looking statements.”
Joining me on today’s call are Warren Eisenberg, Co-Chairman of Bed Bath and Beyond and Steven Temares, Chief Executive Officer and Member of the Board of Directors. I am now very pleased to introduce Warren Eisenberg. Warren?
Good afternoon. I am very pleased to report that our company’s net earnings per diluted share increased approximately 56% in the fiscal fourth quarter to $0.86 and approximately 40% in the fiscal year to $2.30.
You will recall that last year’s fiscal fourth quarter was negatively impacted by challenging economic conditions as well as the completion of liquidation sales of a then major competitor. While the economy appears to be showing some signs of improvement we believe the consumer continues to face economic challenges and the pressures of the macroeconomic environment still remains. As such we remain cautiously optimistic as we begin fiscal 2010.
During the fiscal fourth quarter we opened eight Bed Bath and Beyond stores, four Christmas Tree shops, three Harmon Face Value stores and three buybuy BABY stores bringing the total number of openings in fiscal 2009 to 67. Additionally, we closed one and relocated three Bed Bath and Beyond stores during the quarter. We continued to add fine china departments in additional Bed Bath and Beyond stores as well as place Harmon Face Value’s health and beauty care offerings in all of our concepts.
Consolidated store space at February 27, 2010 was approximately 33.7 million square feet, an increase of approximately 5% over last year. Since the beginning of fiscal 2010 we have opened one Bed Bath and Beyond store and one buybuy BABY store. We currently operate 1,102 stores including 966 Bed Bath and Beyond stores in 49 states, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico and Canada as well as 61 Christmas Tree shops, 30 buybuy BABY stores and 45 stores under the names Harmon or Harmon Face Value. In addition, we are a partner in a joint venture which operates two stores in the Mexico City market under the name Home & More.
In fiscal 2010 we anticipate opening a total of approximately 60 stores. Currently we believe that fiscal 2010’s mix of store openings will consist of approximately 30 Bed Bath and Beyond stores in the United States and Canada, approximately 10 Christmas Tree shops and approximately 20 buybuy BABY stores. Additionally we will continue to place Harmon Face Value health and beauty care offerings in all our concepts. We also look forward to expanding into our 50th state, Hawaii, with a Bed Bath and Beyond store expected to open this summer.
We remain committed to and are excited about the continued growth of all of our concepts. We continue to apply our stringent standards of growth as we evaluate new store price as well as continue to review our existing locations and lease terms for opportunities to relocate and/or right size our stores in response to changing market conditions. We believe throughout the United States and Canada there is an opportunity to open in excess of 1,300 Bed Bath and Beyond stores as well as grow the Christmas Tree shops and buybuy BABY concepts from coast to coast.
We continue to work to increase the productivity of our existing stores by introducing new merchandising initiatives, as well as by expanding, renovating, remodeling and/or relocating stores to enhance our customers’ shopping experience. Our ability to leverage the breadth and depth of our merchandise offering, grow our bridal, BABY and gift registries and continue the development of our online sales capabilities has afforded us additional opportunities to attract new customers to Bed Bath and Beyond.
We continue to believe that these challenging macroeconomic times have provided us an exceptional opportunity to further solidify and enhance our position in the merchandising categories that we offer our customers. The success of our company is due in large part to the tremendous efforts of our associates and our unique, decentralized culture. This culture, which takes advantage of the knowledge, independence and customer focus of our associates has always been the foundation of our long-term performance and allows us to respond more quickly as economic conditions change on a market by market basis.
We are confident we have the people the resources and the capability to achieve our near and long-term goals. Now I will turn the call over to Steven Temares. Steve?
Thank you Warren. Good afternoon everyone and thank you for participating in this conference call. Our fourth quarter results exceeded our internal planning assumptions. The dedication and talent of our associates and their constant focus on improving the overall customer shopping experience while at the same time creating a more productive and efficient company are the key to producing the continued outstanding results we have experienced.
Although economic and consumer spending challenges persist, our fundamental business strategy has remained unchanged; to offer a broad assortment of merchandise at everyday low prices with superior customer service. We continue to systematically challenge the costs associated with running our company and although we have anniversaried many of the expense reduction initiatives that we instituted during the second half of last year, we continue to strive to find opportunities to lower our operating costs.
Our balance sheet and overall financial health are extremely strong and we remain focused on building a business that spans the test of time. We continue to find ways to enhance our customers’ overall shopping experience and we remain committed to being our customers’ first choice for the merchandise categories we offer, domestically, interactively and over the longer term internationally. We are confident our company is well positioned to grow profitably, deliver superior shareholder value and to compete and increase our market share over time.
Our capital spending for all of fiscal 2009 was approximately $154 million, lower than we had estimated in our January conference call due primarily to the timing and cost of certain store and warehouse construction projects and IT purchases. While we continue to review and prioritize our capital needs, we remain committed to making the required investments in our company to help position us for our long-term success, principally through new stores, existing store improvements, information technology enhancements and other projects whose impact is viewed as important to our future and taking a long-term approach to building our Bed Bath and Beyond, Christmas Tree Shops, buybuy BABY and Harmon Face Value concepts and through the ongoing effort to cross merchandise and leverage our best practices across each of our concepts. We expect over time to do more for and with our customers.
Turning to our fiscal 2009 performance, as reported earlier today our net earnings per diluted share for the fiscal fourth quarter were $0.86, an increase of approximately 56% versus the $0.55 per share earned in last year’s fourth quarter which was negatively impacted by challenging economic conditions as well as the completion of liquidation sales of a then major competitor.
For all of fiscal 2009 net earnings per diluted share were $2.30, an increase of approximately 40% as compared with $1.64 last year. Net sales for the fiscal fourth quarter were approximately $2.2 billion, approximately 16.7% higher than the corresponding fiscal 2008 period. Fourth quarter comp store sales increased approximately 11.5% versus a decrease of approximately 4.3% last year.
For the full fiscal 2009 year net sales were approximately $7.8 billion, about 8.6% higher than last year. Comp store sales for the full fiscal year increased approximately 4.4% versus a decrease of approximately 2.4% last year.
Gross profit for the fiscal fourth quarter was approximately 42.6% of net sales compared to approximately 40.8% of net sales for the fiscal fourth quarter of 2008. This increase of 180 basis points resulted from decreases in coupon redemptions, mark downs and inventory acquisition costs as a percentage of net sales partially offset by a shift in the mix of merchandise sold to lower margin categories.
Selling, general and administrative expenses for the fiscal fourth quarter were approximately 26.1% of net sales as compared to approximately 28.8% of net sales in last year’s fourth quarter, a decrease of approximately 270 basis points. This decrease can be attributed to lower advertising, occupancy and payroll expenses as a percentage of net sales. Advertising expense decreased due to a reduction in the distribution of advertising pieces.
Occupancy, as with other fixed costs benefited from the 11.5% increase in comparable store sales. Reflecting the movement in gross profit margin and SG&A expenses the operating profit margin for the fiscal fourth quarter was higher than in the same period a year ago by approximately 450 basis points. For all of fiscal 2009 the operating profit margin increased by approximately 320 basis points.
Our tax rate continues to fluctuate as taxable events occur and exposures are reevaluated. For the fiscal fourth quarter our tax rate was approximately 39.1% compared to approximately 39% even for the comparable quarter last year.
We again want to thank our associates for their ongoing efforts which produced Bed Bath and Beyond long-term success. Through their efforts we look forward to meeting the challenges that lay ahead and seizing the opportunity to satisfy our customers and by doing so continuing to improve our competitive position in the merchandise categories that we offer.
I will now turn the call back to Gene. Gene?
Thanks Steve. As you heard from Warren and Steve our results exceeded our planning assumptions and we earned $0.86 per diluted share in our fiscal fourth quarter and $2.30 per diluted share for all of fiscal 2009. We are encouraged by our positive fiscal fourth quarter results and remain cautiously optimistic about the coming year.
The continued uncertainty in the macroeconomic environment makes it difficult to forecast future results. However, the following are our major planning assumptions for fiscal 2010.
One, we anticipate opening approximately 60 stores across all of our concepts including approximately 30 Bed Bath and Beyond stores, approximately 10 Christmas Tree shops and approximately 20 buybuy BABY stores. We will continue to place Harmon Face Value’s health and beauty care offerings in all of our concepts and fine china departments within our Bed Bath and Beyond stores.
Consistent with our historical experience we anticipate new store openings will occur throughout the year with the majority in our fiscal second half. We remain flexible to take advantage of real estate opportunities that may arise.
Two, we expect to continue our program of expanding, renovating, remodeling and/or relocating a number of our stores in fiscal 2010. Three, for the first half of fiscal 2010 we are modeling a mid single digit percentage increase in comparable store sales. For the second half of fiscal 2010 considering the higher comparable store sales comparisons as well as less visibility into future economic conditions we are modeling a low single digit percent increase in comparable store sales.
Four, based on these comparable store sales assumptions we are modeling consolidated net sales to increase by a high single digit percentage in the first half of fiscal 2010 and by a mid single digit percentage in the second half of fiscal 2010.
Five, assuming these sales levels we would expect leverage in our operating profit margin to both the fiscal first quarter and the full year. Six, interest income is expected to be relatively flat versus fiscal 2009. Seven, the full-year tax provision is estimated in the mid to high 30% range with variability as taxable events occur.
Eight, capital expenditures for fiscal 2010 principally for new stores, existing store refurbishment and Information technology enhancements and other projects are currently planned at approximately $225 million. Nine, depreciation for fiscal 2010 is estimated to be approximately $180 million.
Ten, we expect to generate positive cash flow in fiscal 2010 and to continue to fund operations entirely from internally generated sources. Eleven, our share repurchase program will be influenced by several factors including business and market conditions.
Based on these and other planning assumptions we are modeling diluted earnings per share to be in a range of approximately $0.44 to $0.48 in the first quarter. For all of fiscal 2010 we are modeling diluted earnings per share to increase by approximately 10-15%.
Before concluding this afternoons call a few additional comments relative to our recently concluded fiscal fourth quarter. Our balance sheet remains strong and debt free. We ended fiscal 2009 with cash and cash equivalents and investment securities of approximately $1.7 billion. This includes approximately $181 million of investments related to auction rate securities. These securities have an estimated temporary valuation adjustment of approximately $2 million to reflect their current lack of liquidity. Since this valuation adjustment is deemed temporary it did not affect the company’s earnings.
During the quarter we had redemptions of auction rate securities of approximately $5 million at par. We anticipate additional redemptions of approximately $55 million at par during the first half of fiscal 2010. Approximately $43 million of these redemptions are related to a commitment we have with an investment firm to redeem these investments at par commencing June 30, 2010. As we have said in the past and as we have experienced to date we believe given the high credit quality of these investments we will ultimately recover at par all amounts invested in these securities.
Inventories continue to be tailored by store to meet the anticipated demand of our customers and are in good shape. As of February 27, 2010 inventories were approximately $1.8 billion or $52.15 per square foot, an increase of approximately 1.8% on a per square foot basis versus last year.
Consolidated shareholder’s equity at February 27, 2010 was approximately $3.7 billion which is net of share repurchases including approximately $28 million repurchased during the fiscal fourth quarter.
As a reminder our next conference call to review operating results for the first quarter ending on May 29, 2010 will be on Wednesday, June 23, 2010. If you have any questions Ken and Lisa will be in their offices this evening, April 7th to take your calls.
As always we appreciate your interest in Bed Bath and Beyond.
Ladies and gentlemen this concludes today’s conference call. Thank you for listening. You may now disconnect.
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