Staples' Dividend Hike Cannot Hide the Problems

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Staples Inc. (NASDAQ: SPLS) reported fourth-quarter and full-year 2012 results before markets opened this morning.

For the quarter, the office supplies retailer posted adjusted diluted earnings per share (EPS) of $0.46 and $6.57 billion in revenues. In the same period a year ago, Staples reported EPS of $0.41 on revenue of $6.37 billion. Fourth-quarter results also compare to the Thomson Reuters consensus estimates for EPS of $0.45 and $6.72 billion in revenue.

For the full year, Staples reported adjusted EPS of $1.39 on revenues of $24.38 billion, compared with EPS of $1.37 and revenues of $24.67 billion in fiscal year 2011. The consensus estimates called for EPS of $1.38 on revenues of $24.68 billion.

On a GAAP basis, Staples posted quarterly EPS of $0.14, compared with last year's EPS of $0.41. The excluded items included European store closures and restructuring, early extinguishment of debt, the termination of a joint venture in India and pretax income from the quarter's extra week. One-time charges totaled $181 million..

In a separate announcement, Staples said it is increasing its quarterly dividend by 9%, from $0.11 to $0.12 per share. That is something of a consolation prize for an indifferent performance for the year.

Staples guided 2013 sales up in the low single-digits, based on the 52-week total for 2012 of $23.9 billion. Full-year diluted EPS are forecast at $1.30 to $1.35. Analysts had estimated EPS for 2013 of $1.43 on sales of $24.3 billion.

The pending merger between Office Depot Inc. (NYSE: ODP) and OfficeMax Inc. (NYSE: OMX) is likely to have only a marginal effect on Staples' business. The bricks-and-mortar part of the business saw same-store sales drop 5%, and sales in the online store rose only 7%. This does not look good for competing with Staples' real rival: Inc. (NASDAQ: AMZN).

Shares are down about 5.2% in premarket trading to $12.60, in a 52-week range of $10.57 to $16.93. Thomson Reuters had a consensus analyst price target of $14.10 before today's results were announced.

Filed under: 24/7 Wall St. Wire, Dividend, Earnings, Retail, Services Tagged: AMZN, ODP, OMX, SPLS