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Executives

Eugene A. Castagna - Chief Financial Officer, Principal Accounting Officer, Treasurer and President of Buy Buy Baby Inc

Warren Eisenberg - Co-Founder, Co-Chairman and Secretary

Steven H. Temares - Chief Executive Officer and Director

Bed Bath & Beyond (BBBY) Q4 2011 Earnings Call April 4, 2012 5:00 PM ET

Operator

Good day, and welcome to Bed Bath & Beyond's Fiscal 2011 Results Conference Call. [Operator Instructions] This call is being recorded. A rebroadcast of the conference will be available beginning on Wednesday, April 4 at 6:30 p.m. Eastern Time through 6:30 Eastern Time on Friday, April 6. To access the rebroadcast, you may dial (888) 203-1112 with the passcode of 8034583.

Now at this time, I'd like to turn the conference over to Mr. Gene Castagna, Chief Financial Officer and Treasurer of Bed Bath & Beyond. Please go ahead.

Eugene A. Castagna

Thank you, and good afternoon. Welcome to Bed Bath & Beyond's Fourth Quarter of Fiscal 2011 Conference Call. Within the past hour, we issued a press release announcing Bed Bath & Beyond's results for the 3- and 12-month periods ended February 25, 2012.

During this call, we will comment on some of the fourth quarter and full year highlights and provide our fiscal 2012 planning assumptions. Before proceeding, I will read the following statement and I quote, "Bed Bath & 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, approximate, estimate, assume, continue, model, project, plan and similar words and phrases. The company's actual results and future financial condition may differ materially from those expressed in any such forward-looking statements as a result of many factors. Please refer to Bed Bath & Beyond's SEC filings, including its Form 10-K for the year ended February 26, 2011. 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 & Beyond; and Steven Temares, Chief Executive Officer and Member of the Board of Directors.

I'm now very pleased to introduce Warren Eisenberg. Warren?

Warren Eisenberg

Thanks, Gene. Good afternoon. I'm pleased to report that our company's net earnings per diluted share increased approximately 32% in both the fiscal fourth quarter and the full year to approximately $1.48 and $4.06, respectively. We're pleased that we have been able to continue our strong performance in terms of earnings growth, cash flow generation and overall financial strength as we constantly challenge ourselves to improve in every aspect of our operation.

Our unique decentralized corporate culture continues to produce positive results, and we remain confident that our business will continue to grow successfully in the years ahead. Our entire organization is dedicated to providing our customers with the best possible shopping experience.

During the fourth quarter, we opened 3 buybuy BABY stores, bringing the total number of stores opened in fiscal 2011 to 38 stores across all our concepts, as well as relocated 3 Bed Bath & Beyond stores and closed one Harmon store.

Consolidated store space at February 25, 2012, is approximately 36.1 million square feet, an increase of approximately 3% over the end of last year's fourth quarter. Since the beginning of the fiscal first quarter of 2012, we've opened 2 additional Bed Bath & Beyond stores. Including these stores, we currently operate 1,175 stores, consisting of 995 Bed Bath & Beyond stores in all 50 states, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico and Canada; 71 Christmas Tree Shop stores; 64 buybuy BABY stores and 45 stores under the names Harmon or Harmon Face Values.

In addition, we're a partner in a joint venture which operates 2 stores in the Mexico City market under the name Home & More.

During fiscal 2012, including the 2 additional stores we've opened to date, we anticipate opening a total of approximately 40 stores across all our concepts. Currently, we believe that fiscal 2012 mix of store openings by concept will be comparable to fiscal 2011. As the year progresses, the total number of stores that we will open will be updated as we gain greater visibility.

As always, we apply our stringent standards to growth as we evaluate new store sites, 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 that throughout the United States and Canada, there's an opportunity to operate an excess of 1,300 Bed Bath & Beyond stores, as well as continue to grow our Christmas Tree Shops and buybuy BABY concepts from coast to coast. Additionally, we will continue to open Harmon Face Values stores and place health and beauty care offerings in stores across all our concepts. We remain committed to and are excited about the continued growth of all our merchandise categories.

We're focused on increasing the productivity of our existing stores by evolving the merchandise offerings, as well as by expanding, renovating and/or relocating stores to enhance our customer shopping experience. Our ability to leverage the breadth and depth of our merchandise offerings, grow our bridal, baby and gift registries and continue the development of our interactive platforms has afforded us additional opportunities to attract new customers.

As we consistently said, the continued success of our company is due to the tremendous efforts of our associates and to our unique decentralized culture. This culture, which takes advantage of the knowledge, the independence and the customer focus of our associates, has always been the foundation of our long-term performance and allows us to respond more quickly to market demands and to changing economic conditions on a market-by-market basis.

We have the people, the resources and the capability to achieve our near- and long-term goals.

Now I'll turn the call over to Steven Temares. Steve?

Steven H. Temares

Thank you, Warren. Good afternoon, everyone, and thank you for participating in this conference call. As Warren said, we are pleased that we have been able to continue our strong performance in terms of earnings growth, cash flow generation and overall financial strength. We believe the dedication and talents 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 keys to producing the continued strong results we have experienced.

While consumer confidence and spending continues to be impacted by the continuing economic challenges, our fundamental business strategy remains unchanged: to offer a broad assortment of merchandise at everyday low prices with superior customer service. As always, we will continue to invest in all aspects of our company and work to enhance our customer's overall experience in store, online and through social media and mobile devices. We remain committed to being our customer's first choice for the merchandise categories we offer domestically, interactively and over the longer term, internationally. We are confident that our company is well positioned to grow profitably, compete for and increase our market share and over the long term, continue to grow shareholder value. And taking this long-term approach to the growth and development of our business and through the ongoing efforts to cross-merchandise and leverage our best practices throughout our organization, we expect, over time, to do more for and with our customers.

As we previously announced, we're in the process of relocating our offices in Farmingdale and Garden City, New York to our corporate headquarters here in Union, New Jersey. This transition is being made to further improve the communication, coordination and execution across all our concepts, activities and platforms and to support the continuing growth of our company. We expect this transition to be substantially completed by the end of this summer.

Turning to our fiscal fourth quarter of 2011 performance. As reported earlier today, our net earnings per diluted share were $1.48, an increase of approximately 32% when compared to the $1.12 per diluted share that we earned in last year's fourth quarter. For all of fiscal 2011, net earnings per diluted share were $4.06 compared with $3.07 earned last year, also an increase of approximately 32%.

Net sales for the fiscal fourth quarter were approximately $2.7 billion, approximately 9.1% higher than in the prior year. For all of fiscal 2011, net sales were approximately $9.5 billion, about 8.5% higher than last year. Fourth quarter comp store sales increased by approximately 6.8% compared with an increase of 8.5% last year. For the full year, comp store sales increased by approximately 5.9%, compared with an increase of approximately 7.8% last year. The increases in comp store sales for the fiscal fourth quarter and full year of 2011 were attributed to increases in both the number of transactions and the average transaction amount.

Gross profit for the fiscal fourth quarter was approximately 42.6% of net sales compared to approximately 43% of net sales for the fourth quarter of 2010. This decrease in the gross profit margin as a percentage of net sales was primarily attributed to an increase in inventory acquisition costs, coupons, shrink and a shift in the mix of merchandise sold to lower margin categories, partially offset by a reduction in markdowns.

Gross profit for the full fiscal year was approximately 41.4% of net sales, the same as the prior fiscal year. The gross profit margin as a percentage of net sales included a reduction in markdowns, offset by an increase in inventory acquisition costs and a shift in the mix of merchandise sold to lower margin categories.

In the fiscal fourth quarter, selling, general and administrative expenses were approximately 22.4% of net sales as compared to approximately 24.6% of net sales in last year's fiscal fourth quarter, a decrease of approximately 220 basis points. For all of fiscal 2011, selling, general and administrative expenses were approximately 24.9% of net sales as compared to approximately 26.7% of net sales for all of fiscal 2010, a decrease of approximately 180 basis points. These decreases can primarily be attributed to lower payroll, occupancy, advertising and store expenses as a percentage of net sales, all of which benefited from the positive comp for both the fiscal fourth quarter and full year. In addition, advertising as a percentage of net sales for both the fiscal fourth quarter and full year benefited from a reduction in the mailing of advertising pieces.

Reflecting the movements in gross profit margin and SG&A expenses, the operating profit margins for both the fiscal fourth quarter and the full year were higher than in the same periods a year ago by approximately 180 basis points.

Our provision for income taxes continues to fluctuate as taxable events occur and exposures are reevaluated. For the fiscal fourth quarter, our provision for income taxes was approximately 36.6% compared to approximately 38.7% for the comparable quarter last year, a decrease of approximately 210 basis points. For all of fiscal 2011, our provision for income taxes was approximately 37% compared to approximately 38.8% for the comparable period last year, a decrease of approximately 180 basis points.

These provisions for the current fiscal quarter and full year of 2011 included net after-tax benefits of $6.6 million and $20.7 million, respectively, due to distinct tax events occurring during the periods.

Capital expenditures for all of fiscal 2011 were approximately $243.4 million, principally for new stores, existing store improvements, information technology enhancements and other projects important to our future. 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.

Our company's Board of Directors continues to review our capital structure on an ongoing basis. In addition to providing value to our shareholders through share repurchase programs, our strong operations should allow us to continue to invest in our infrastructure and maintain our flexibility to take advantage of opportunities as they may arise.

We again want to thank our associates for their ongoing efforts, which produce Bed Bath & Beyond's long-term success. Through their efforts, we look forward to meeting the challenges that lie ahead and to seizing the opportunities to satisfy our customers and by doing so, continuing to improve our competitive position in the merchandise categories that we offer.

I'll now turn the call back to Gene. Gene?

Eugene A. Castagna

Thanks, Steve. As you heard from Warren and Steve, we earned $1.48 per diluted share in our fiscal fourth quarter and $4.06 per diluted share for all of fiscal 2011. We were encouraged by our positive fiscal fourth quarter results and continue to be cautiously optimistic about the coming year.

Our planning assumptions for fiscal 2012 which began on February 26, 2012, and which will be 53 weeks, include the following: One, we anticipate opening a total of approximately 40 stores across all of our concepts. Currently, we believe that fiscal 2012's mix of store openings by concept will be relatively comparable to fiscal 2011. As the year progresses, the total number of stores that we will open will be updated as we gain greater visibility.

We also will continue to place Harmon Face Values health and beauty care offerings in selected stores across all our concepts. As always, we remain flexible to take advantage of real estate opportunities that may arise.

Two, we expect to continue our program of relocating, remodeling, renovating and expanding a number of our stores in fiscal 2012.

Three, capital expenditures for fiscal 2012 are planned to be in the range of $275 million to $325 million which, of course, remains subject to the timing and composition of the projects, including new stores and existing store refurbishments, information technology enhancements and other projects important to our future, including the following major initiatives: the development of an enhanced website experience for our customers; the opening of a new 800,000 square-foot e-commerce fulfillment center in Pendergrass, Georgia; the relocation of our Farmingdale and Garden City, New York offices to our corporate headquarters in Union, New Jersey, and the initial phase of a new IT data center to support our ongoing technology initiatives. Currently, we estimate the incremental operating costs associated with these major initiatives to be approximately $0.09 per diluted share, including -- I'm sorry, occurring primarily in the second half of fiscal 2012.

Four, we are modeling a 2 to 4 percentage increase in comparable store sales for the first quarter and full year.

Five, taking into account the 53rd week in fiscal 2012, we are modeling consolidated net sales to increase by 4% to 6% for the first quarter and 5% to 7% for the full year.

Six, depreciation for fiscal 2012 is expected to be approximately $180 million to $190 million.

Seven, assuming these sales levels and modeling advertising events that are relatively consistent with last year, in addition to the continuation of the shift in the mix of merchandise sold to lower margin categories, and including the incremental operating costs associated with the previously discussed major initiatives, we are modeling operating profit margin as a percentage of net sales to be flat for the first quarter and to be in the range of flat to deleveraged for the full year.

Eight, interest income is expected to be relatively flat versus fiscal 2011.

Nine, the first quarter and full year tax provisions are estimated to be in the mid to high 30s percentage range, with the expected variability as distinct tax events occur.

Ten, we expect to generate positive operating cash flow and continue to fund operations entirely from internally-generated sources.

Eleven, we plan to continue to repurchase shares under our current $2 billion repurchase program, which we anticipate completing by the end of the fiscal year. Our share repurchase program may be influenced by several factors including business and market conditions.

Based on these and other planning assumptions, we are modeling net earnings per diluted share to be approximately $0.79 to $0.83 for the fiscal first quarter of 2012. For all of fiscal 2012, including the benefit of the 53rd week and the incremental operating costs from the previously discussed major initiatives, we are modeling net earnings per diluted share to increase by a high-single-digit to a low-double-digit percentage range.

Before concluding this afternoon's call, a few additional comments relative to our recently concluded fiscal fourth quarter. Our balance sheet and cash flows remain strong. We ended the fiscal fourth quarter with cash and cash equivalents and investment securities of approximately $1.9 billion. This includes approximately $83.9 million of investments related to auction rate securities.

These securities have an estimated temporary valuation adjustment of approximately $3.7 million to reflect their current lack of liquidity. Since this valuation adjustment is deemed temporary, it did not affect the company's earnings. As we have said in the past and as we have experienced to date, we believe that 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 demands of our customers and are in good condition. As of February 25, 2012, inventories at cost were approximately $2.1 billion or $57.35 per square foot, an increase of approximately 2.1% on a per square foot basis over last year.

Consolidated shareholders equity at February 25, 2012, was approximately $3.9 billion, which is net of share repurchases, including the approximately $359 million, representing approximately 5.9 million shares repurchased during the fiscal fourth quarter of 2011. As of February 25, 2012, the remaining balance of the current share repurchase program authorized in December 2010 was approximately $919 million.

As a reminder, our next conference call to review operating results for the first quarter ending on May 26, 2012, will be on Wednesday, June 20, 2012. If you have any questions, Ken Frankel and I will be in our offices this evening, April 4, to take your calls.

As always, we appreciate your interest in Bed Bath & Beyond.

Operator

Ladies and gentlemen, this concludes today's conference call. We thank you for your participation. You may now disconnect.

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