Pfizer fourth-quarter results top forecast, gives cautious 2013 view

NEW YORK, Tue Jan 29, 2013 — Pfizer Inc. on Tuesday reported better-than-expected fourth-quarter results, helped by rebounding sales in emerging markets, but the drugmaker forecast earnings for 2013 that was mostly below consensus analyst expectations.

The largest U.S. drugmaker said its earnings quadrupled to $6.32 billion, or 86 cents per share, in the quarter as it recorded gains from the approximately $12 billion sale in November of its nutritional products business to Swiss food groups Nestle SA. That compared with earnings of $1.44 billion, or 19 cents per share, in the year-earlier quarter.

Excluding special items, Pfizer earned 47 cents per share. Analysts, on average, expected 44 cents per share, according to Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S.

Global company sales fell 7 percent to $15.1 billion, hurt by generic competition for its Lipitor cholesterol fighter, but came in well above Wall Street expectations of $14.37 billion.

Pfizer forecast full-year earnings, excluding special items of $2.20 to $2.30 per share. The average analyst forecast was $2.29 per share, according to Thomson Reuters.

Ford profit beats Street, widens Europe loss estimate

DETROIT, Tue Jan 29, 2013 — Ford Motor Co. posted better-than-expected fourth-quarter profit and predicted 2013 operating profit will be about equal to its performance last year, as market share gains in the U.S. auto market offset deepening losses in Europe.

The second largest U.S. automaker expects to lose $2 billion in Europe, reflecting its deteriorating sales outlook for the region. Previously, Ford said it expected its 2013 loss in the region to be equal to last year’s levels.

But Chief Financial Officer Bob Shanks predicted Ford’s losses in Europe will bottom out this year. The automaker expects to command a higher market share in both the United States and China.

In the fourth quarter, Ford reported a per-share pretax operating profit of 31 cents, better than the average analyst estimate of 25 cents per share, according to Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S.

Fourth-quarter revenue totaled $36.5 billion, with the lion’s share coming from its North American operations, its most profitable business unit. During what is typically its weakest quarter of the year, Ford reported an operating margin of 8.4 percent in North America.

Motorola Solutions profit beats estimates on government spending

SCHAUMBURG, Ill., Wed Jan 23, 2013 — Communications gear maker Motorola Solutions Inc. reported better-than-expected fourth-quarter profit, boosted by higher government spending on public safety, but forecast current quarter revenue below analysts’ estimates.

The company expects first-quarter revenue to increase 4 percent to 5 percent from a year earlier. This means a revenue of between $2.03 billion and $2.05 billion.

It forecast earnings of between 62 cents and 67 cents per share from continuing operations in the first quarter of 2013.

Analysts on average are expecting a profit of 67 cents per share on revenue of $2.07 billion, according to Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S.

Motorola Solutions benefited over the past year as two-way radio users were required by the Federal Communications Commission to upgrade their devices for a switch to narrow bands of 12.5 kHz from wideband channels of 25 kHz by Jan. 1, 2013.

The company dominates the two-way radio market with its land-mobile-radio systems and public-safety products.

“In 2013, we expect the end of narrowbanding to result in government revenue growth slowing down to the mid single digits … from the strong growth seen last year,” Sanford C. Bernstein analyst Pierre Ferragu wrote in a pre-earnings note.

Net income from continuing operations rose to $336 million, or $1.18 per share, in the fourth quarter, from $177 million, or 54 cents per share, a year earlier.

Excluding items, the company earned $1.10 per share from continuing operations, above analysts’ expectations of $1.02.

Revenue rose 6 percent to $2.44 billion, in-line with analysts’ estimates of $2.45 billion.


Motorola Solutions is not related to Motorola Mobility, the cellphone maker bought by Google Inc. for $12.5 billion in 2011.

Shares of the company were up marginally at $59 in premarket trading on Wednesday. They closed at $58.29 on the New York Stock Exchange on Tuesday.

Wells Fargo profit jumps 24 percent to record high

SAN FRANCISCO, Fri Jan 11, 2013 — Wells Fargo & Co. on Friday said fourth-quarter profit rose 24 percent to a record high as the bank set aside less money to cover bad loans and made more fees from mortgages.

But the bank’s net interest margin declined and it made fewer mortgage loans than in the third quarter, and its shares fell 1.4 percent to $34.92 in premarket trading.

Wells Fargo, the fourth-biggest U.S. bank and the largest U.S. home lender, said fees from mortgages climbed nearly 30 percent from a year ago to $3.1 billion as homeowners continued to refinance their homes at low rates. The bank issued $125 billion in mortgages during the quarter, down from $139 billion in the third quarter.

In a sign that the mortgage refinancing boom could be slowing, the bank’s pipeline of unclosed home loans was $81 billion at the end of the fourth quarter, down from $97 billion at the end of the third quarter.

The bank’s net interest margin — a closely watched measure of how much money banks make from their loans — fell to 3.56 percent from 3.66 percent a year ago, but the decline was less severe than in the third quarter. Banks are seeing their margins shrink as older loans with higher interest rates are paid down.

Wells Fargo’s provision for loan losses fell to $1.8 billion from about $2 billion a year ago as borrowers continued to do a better job of making their payments.

FedEx profit drops less than investors feared

MEMPHIS, Tenn., Wed Dec 19, 2012 — FedEx Corp. profit fell 11.9 percent in the second quarter, less than investors had feared, as the No. 2 U.S. package delivery company struggled to improve demand at its air freight business.

The company reported fiscal second-quarter earnings of $438 million, or $1.39 per share, on Wednesday, compared with $497 million, or $1.57 per share, a year earlier.

Disruptions relating to Superstorm Sandy — which walloped the East Coast late in October and killed more than 130 people — pulled earnings down by about 11 cents per share.

Factoring out those charges, profit was $1.50 per share, more than the $1.41 analysts had forecast, according to Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S.

In premarket trading, the company’s shares were up 2 percent.

Memphis, Tennessee-based FedEx has been trying to improve profit at its air express business, which has seen demand fall as shippers turn to less costly ways of shipping goods. Operating profit at that unit, which accounts for more than half FedEx’s sales, fell 33 percent in the quarter.

“Persistent weakness in the global economy and increased demand for lower-yielding international services limited profits at FedEx Express,” said CEO Fred Smith, referring to the company’s air freight operation.

Smith laid out plans in October to cut costs at the unit.

Revenue grew 4.7 percent to $11.1 billion from $10.6 billion a year earlier.

The company held steady its profit forecast for 2013 — it expects to earn $6.20 per share to $6.60 per share for the fiscal year through May. In September, FedEx had cut that forecast by about 10 percent.

FedEx, which competes with larger rival United Parcel Service Inc., said shipments relating to the holiday shopping season — a key period for U.S. retailers — were on track to set a record.

FedEx shares have gained about 9 percent over the past 12 months, outperforming the 5-percent rise in shares of rival UPS. Still, both companies have underperformed the broader U.S. market; the Standard & Poor’s 500 index .SPX has surged 19 percent over the same period.

Costco profit jumps despite light membership fee growth

ISSAQUAH, Wash., Wed Dec 12, 2012 — Costco Wholesale Corp.’s quarterly earnings beat Wall Street estimates, but the largest U.S. warehouse club chain collected less in membership fees than some analysts anticipated.

Shares of Costco were up 0.8 percent at $99.11 in morning Nasdaq trading after a slight decline earlier in the session.

Members pay up to $110 per year to shop at Costco’s cavernous stores and website, where they can buy everything from carrots to kayaks. The fee revenue pads Costco’s bottom line and allows it to offer low prices and take in thin profit margins on items it sells.

Membership fee revenue rose 14.3 percent to $511 million in the first quarter ended on November 25, Costco said. The Issaquah, Washington-based chain raised fees for most U.S. and Canadian members by 10 percent on Nov. 1, 2011.

The fee increase seems to have had little to no impact on renewal rates, Chief Financial Officer Richard Galanti said during a conference call.

Still, the increase in membership fee revenue was not as great as some had anticipated, and growth declined from a rise of about 18 percent in the preceding quarter.

BMO Capital Markets analyst Karen Short said she had expected membership fee revenue of $534 million, while Sanford Bernstein analyst Colin McGranahan said the $511 million in fees was $4 million shy of his forecast.

Costco said it had earned $416 million, or 95 cents per share, in the quarter, up 30 percent from $320 million, or 73 cents per share, a year earlier.

Analysts on average were expecting a profit of 93 cents per share, according to Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S.

“While results were solid and clean in absolute terms, we believe this was largely line with expectations and unlikely to meaningfully move the stock,” said McGranahan, who rates Costco at “underperform.”

Lower-than-expected interest expenses and taxes helped boost earnings per share, said Short, who has an “outperform” rating on the shares.

Sales excluding membership fees rose 9.5 percent to $23.2 billion, just below the figure Costco gave last month, when it said quarterly sales rose 10 percent to $23.21 billion.

Dollar General’s higher profit tops expectations

GOODLETSVILLE, Tenn., Tue Dec 11, 2012 — Dollar General Corp. on Tuesday posted a bigger-than-expected increase in profit and said it remained cautious about the rest of the year despite an encouraging start to the holiday season.

The discount chain said customer confidence and spending was still under pressure and it faced challenges from competing chains.

While Dollar General’s latest quarter only ran through November 2, the chain said it was encouraged by results from the Thanksgiving weekend that came later in the month and the start of the holiday season.

The discount chain raised the lower end of its 2012 adjusted earnings forecast and slightly trimmed its sales view.

Profit rose to $207.7 million, or 62 cents per share, in the fiscal third quarter, from $171.2 million, or 50 cents, a year earlier.

Earnings rose to 63 cents per share, after adjusting for items such as expenses from a secondary offering and debt amendment fees, topping the analysts’ average target of 60 cents, according to Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S.

Shares of Dollar General rose 33 cents to $46.90 in premarket trading.

Best Buy profit misses estimates; same-store sales fall

RICHFIELD, Minn., Tue Nov 20, 2012 – Best Buy Co. Inc. reported a weaker-than-expected profit and its ninth same-store sales decline in 10 quarters, highlighting the challenges its new chief executive officer faces in trying to turn around the world’s largest consumer electronics chain.

The retailer, which faces cutthroat competition from the likes of Inc., Wal-Mart Stores Inc. and Apple Inc., said its net loss in the third quarter ended on November 3 was $13 million, or 4 cents a share, compared with year-earlier net earnings of $173 million, or 47 cents a share.

Excluding restructuring charges, the company earned 3 cents a share, far below the analysts’ average estimate of 12 cents, according to Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S.

Sales at stores open at least 14 months fell 4.3 percent, including a 4 percent decline at the company’s U.S. unit.

The news came just days before the unofficial start of the holiday season and amid a wide organizational restructuring under new CEO Hubert Joly and a looming buyout proposal by founder Richard Schulze.

Last month, the retailer had warned that earnings and same-store sales would show declines for its third quarter.

Lowe’s efforts to cut costs, spur sales paying off

MOORESVILLE, N.C., Mon Nov 19, 2012 – Lowe’s Cos. Inc.’s reported a higher-than-expected quarterly profit on Monday in a sign its efforts to cut costs and improve its selection of home improvement items are working.

Preparation and rebuilding efforts tied to Superstorm Sandy and an improving housing market also boosted business at Lowe’s, the world’s No. 2 home improvement chain.

Shares of Lowe’s, which also raised its sales forecast for the year, were up $2.10, or 6.5 percent, at $34.08 in midday trade.

Rival Home Depot has won shoppers from Lowe’s in recent years by offering better pricing and service, while Lowe’s strategy of “everyday low prices” rather than promotions has driven some customers away.

Lowe’s has cut jobs, curbed store expansion and streamlined its supply chain to reduce costs while reining in inventory.

“The home improvement sector is still growing, so this is a sign that Lowe’s is getting more of their fair share,” Morningstar analyst Peter Wahlstrom said of the results.

Chevron profit drops on lower oil output, maintenance

SAN RAMON, Calif., Fri Nov 2, 2012 – Chevron Corp. posted a 33 percent drop in quarterly earnings as maintenance exacerbated a steady decline in output from oil and natural gas wells over the past year and as a huge fire at one of the company’s California plants hit the refining business.

The second-largest U.S. oil company said on Friday that third-quarter net income had fallen to $5.25 billion, or $2.69 per share, from $7.83 billion, or $3.92 per share, a year earlier.

Increasing output has been a struggle for many big oil companies, including Exxon Mobil Corp and Royal Dutch Shell Plc. With oil and gas assets tightly controlled by the countries where they are located, the majors are left to drill in pricier regions on land and offshore.

Chevron’s third-quarter oil and gas production fell to 2.52 million barrels of oil equivalent per day from 2.60 million bpd a year earlier. On quarter-to-quarter basis, the production number fell for the third period in a row.

Earnings dropped 17 percent to $5.1 billion in the oil and gas production business and plunged 65 percent to $689 million in the refining, or downstream, operation.