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LOWE'S Q3 NET EARNINGS, SALES RESULTS FLY HIGH.

WILKESBORO, N.C.-Accelerated customer traffic as well as improved cost and inventory controls polished third-quarter results for home center retailer Lowe's Cos. The company posted net earnings that climbed 24 percent, while sales rose more than 21 percent in the quarter ended Nov. 2.

Sales came in at $5.45 billion, compared with $4.5 billion in the prior year, while net income climbed to $250.5 million, or 32 cents per share, from $202.3 million, or 26 cents per share.

Dan Wewer, analyst at Deutsche Banc Alex. Brown, said the company's strong results, "following Home Depot's favorable financial release last week, confirm our belief that the home center business is improving faster than any other hard-line sector."

Robert Tillman, chairman, president and chief executive officer of Lowe's, said the "results give us confidence in the resiliency of the American consumer." Tillman went on to say that sales were solid across all geographic regions and categories. He also said customer traffic accelerated its pace.

Gross margin increased to 29.17 percent in the quarter, up from the prior year's 28.85 percent. The net margin rose 10 basis points to 4.59 percent from 4.49 percent in the prior year. Long-term debt due currently is $50.3 million, compared with $42.2 million in the same period last year. Long-term debt excluding current maturities was $3.79 billion, compared with $2.21 billion in the prior year.

Selling, general and administrative costs as a percentage of sales fell to 17.84 percent in the most recent quarter from 17.97 percent last year.

For the fourth quarter, management told Wall Street it plans on opening 16 stores. Total sales are expected to climb 14 percent with comparable-store sales between 3 and 5 percent. Gross margins are expected to improve 25 to 35 basis points. Earnings are expected to come in at 22 to 24 cents per share.

Subsequently, Wewer raised his earning estimate to 23 cents from 22 cents.
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Comment:LOWE'S Q3 NET EARNINGS, SALES RESULTS FLY HIGH.
Author:Zaczkiewicz, Arthur
Publication:HFN The Weekly Newspaper for the Home Furnishing Network
Article Type:Brief Article
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Nov 26, 2001
Words:332
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