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Lowe’s Companies, Inc. Reports April 1998 Sales Up 26.1%

NORTH WILKESBORO, N.C., May 18 -- Lowe's Companies, Inc. (NYSE: LOW) announced today that diluted earnings per share for the quarter ended May 1, 1998 grew 32% to $0.54, compared to diluted earnings per share of $0.41 in the first quarter of 1997. Net earnings for the quarter grew 34% to $94.5 million compared to net earnings of $70.4 million in the first quarter of 1997.

As previously reported, sales for the quarter ended May 1, 1998 totaled $2.9 billion, compared to last year's sales of $2.4 billion, an increase of 21%. Comparable store sales increased 5.0% in the quarter. Large stores (those larger than 80,000 square feet) had a comparable store sales increase of 7.4% in the quarter.

"I am extremely pleased with our first quarter results," commented Robert L. Tillman, Lowe's Chairman and Chief Executive Officer. "Our stores did an excellent job of serving our customer's needs while controlling expenses. These results could not have been achieved without the dedication and commitment of our 65,000+ employees."

In the first quarter, Lowe's opened 9 stores (7 new stores and 2 relocations) bringing total store count to 451 stores in 26 states. Retail square footage grew to 37.4 million, a 20% increase over first quarter 1997.

This news release may include "forward-looking statements" within the meaning of Section 27A of the Securities Act and Section 21E of the Exchange Act. Although the Company believes that comments reflected in such forward- looking statements are reasonable, it can give no assurance that such expectations will prove to be correct. Possible risks and uncertainties regarding these statements include, but are not limited to, general economic trends, availability and development of real estate for expansion, fluctuation in prices in commodities, the nature of competition and weather conditions, all of which are described in greater detail in Lowe's 1997 Annual Report.

    Consolidated Statements of Current and Retained Earnings

    Lowe's Companies, Inc. and Subsidiary Companies
    In Thousands, Except Per Share Data
    (Unaudited)
                                  Quarter Ended
                         May 1, 1998          May 2, 1997

    Current Earnings
    Net sales          $   2,899,540          $  2,400,754
    Cost of sales          2,139,502             1,777,051
    Gross margin             760,038               623,703
    Expenses:
    Selling, general
     and administrative      516,073               431,480
    Store opening costs       11,365                 8,252
    Depreciation              64,732                56,712
    Interest                  19,663                17,286
    Total expenses           611,833               513,730
    Pre-tax earnings         148,205               109,973
    Income tax provision      53,740                39,590
    Net earnings             $94,465          $     70,383

    Shares outstanding
     (weighted average)      175,517               173,543
    Basic and Diluted
     Earnings Per Share      $  0.54          $       0.41

    Retained Earnings
    Balance at beginning
     of period         $   1,565,133          $  1,245,888
    Net earnings              94,465                70,383
    Cash Dividends            (9,610)               (9,516)
    Balance at end
     of period         $   1,649,988          $  1,306,755

    Consolidated Balance Sheets

    Lowe's Companies, Inc. and Subsidiary Companies
    In Thousands
    (Unaudited)
                                        May 1,                   May 2,
                                         1998                     1997
    Assets
         Current assets:
         Cash and cash equivalents $     623,406          $       47,872
         Short-term investments           27,781                  19,609
         Accounts receivable - net       150,219                 147,871
         Merchandise inventory         2,033,143               1,819,125
         Other assets                     87,214                  54,848

         Total current assets          2,921,763               2,089,325

         Property, less accumulated
          depreciation                 3,097,253               2,583,027
         Long-term investments            39,139                  30,519
         Other assets                     57,708                  46,455

         Total assets               $  6,115,863             $ 4,749,326


    Liabilities and Shareholders' Equity

         Current liabilities:

         Short-term borrowings    $       93,975            $    140,717
         Current maturities of
          long-term debt                  21,745                  23,285
         Accounts payable              1,338,833               1,016,173
         Employee retirement plans        63,787                  67,857
         Accrued salaries and wages       76,637                  65,846
         Other current liabilities       354,754                 254,835
         Total current liabilities     1,949,731               1,568,713

         Long-term debt, excluding
          current maturities           1,331,177                 788,637
         Deferred income taxes           122,203                 103,370


         Total liabilities             3,403,111               2,460,720

         Shareholders' equity
         Preferred stock - $5 par
          value, none issued                  --                      --
         Common stock - $.50 par value;
           Issued and Outstanding
             May 1, 1998      175,728
             May 2, 1997      173,629
             January 30, 1998 175,316     87,864                  86,814
         Capital in excess of par      1,002,753                 912,004
         Retained earnings             1,649,988               1,306,755
         Unearned compensation-restricted
          stock awards                   (27,900)                (16,779)
         Unrealized gain (loss) on
          available-for-sale securities       47                    (188)

         Total shareholders' equity    2,712,752               2,288,606
         Total liabilities and
           shareholders' equity     $  6,115,863             $ 4,749,326

    Consolidated Statements of Cash Flows

    Lowe's Companies, Inc. and Subsidiary Companies
    In Thousands
    (Unaudited)
                                          For the three months ended
                                          May 1,                 May 2,
    Fiscal Years Ended on                  1998                   1997

    Cash Flows From Operating Activities:
         Net Earnings                $    94,465             $    70,383
         Adjustments to Reconcile Net Earnings to Net Cash
           Provided By Operating Activities:
             Depreciation                 64,732                  56,712
             Amortization of Original
              Issue Discount                 109                      28
             Increase in Deferred
              Income Taxes                (7,436)                  2,613
             Loss on Disposition/Writedown
              of Fixed and Other Assets   12,197                   6,120
            Changes in Operating Assets and Liabilities:
               Accounts Receivable - Net (31,811)                (30,309)
               Merchandise Inventory    (318,551)               (213,245)
               Other Operating Assets    (15,935)                  1,811
               Accounts Payable          369,056                 102,006
               Employee Retirement Plans  17,046                  15,587
               Other Operating
                Liabilities              141,340                  52,091
         Net Cash Provided by
          Operating Activities           325,212                  63,797

    Cash Flows from Investing Activities:
         (Increase) Decrease in Investment Assets:
           Short-Term Investments         (7,611)                 16,879
           Purchases of Long-Term
            Investments                   (8,193)                 (3,012)
           Proceeds from Sale/Maturity
            of Long-Term Investments          --                   1,958
           Decrease in Other
            Long-Term Assets                 831                     315
         Fixed Assets Acquired          (156,255)               (121,539)
         Proceeds from the Sale of Fixed
          and Other Long-Term Assets       1,927                   1,984
         Net Cash Used in Investing
          Activities                    (169,301)               (103,415)

    Cash Flows from Financing Activities:
         Long-Term Debt Borrowings       296,160                      --
         Net Increase (Decrease) in
          Short-Term Borrowings           (4,129)                 59,812
         Proceeds from Stock
          Options Exercised                4,845                      76
         Repayment of Long-Term Debt      (5,331)                 (3,269)
         Cash Dividend Payments          (19,196)                 (9,516)
         Net Cash Provided by
          Financing Activities           272,349                  47,103

      Net Increase in Cash
       and Cash Equivalents              428,260                   7,485
      Cash and Cash Equivalents,
       Beginning of Year                 195,146                  40,387
      Cash and Cash Equivalents,
       End of Year                    $  623,406              $   47,872

Supplemental Information:

STORE PERFORMANCE PERSPECTIVE

In 1992, Lowe's began a more detailed reporting on the transformation from a chain of small, contractor-oriented stores to a family of modern, home- improvement warehouses. In first quarter 1998, the Large stores contributed 76% of sales and 74% of operating profits. The following tables are intended to assist the user in understanding the impact of that transformation.

Store Group Categories, presented in these tables, are defined as follows:

     1. Yards : Focused Contractor Yards
     2. Small : Average of 19,000 square feet
     3. Medium : Average of 58,000 square feet
     4. Large : Average of more than 100,000 square feet.

All stores in excess of 80,000 square feet.

Further, Large store sales are reported on both a comparable (same-store) basis and new (open less than a year) basis. A relocated store is removed from the comparable store computation until it has been open at least 12 months.

First Quarter 1998

    Table 1:  Store Group Unit Totals, End of First Quarter
                      1998           1997              1996
               % of              % of              % of
               Total      Units  Total    Units    Total    Units
    Yards         7%         30     6%      25        7%      25
    Small        11%         49    14%      59       21%      81
    Medium       16%         74    22%      91       25%      95
    Large Comp   49%        223    40%     158       28%     104
    Large New    17%         75    18%      74       19%      70
    Total       100%        451   100%     407      100%     375

    Table 2:  Sales & Operating Profits* by Store Group, First Quarter

                    1998          1997         1996

               Sales    O.P.*  Sales  O.P.* Sales   O.P.*
    Yards         4%     2%     4%     3%     4%     3%
    Small         5%     5%     8%     8%    13%    12%
    Medium       15%    19%    23%    31%    27%    37%
    Large Comp   56%    59%    46%    47%    36%    40%
    Large New    20%    15%    19%    11%    20%     8%
    Total       100%   100%   100%   100%   100%   100%

*Operating Profits before corporate expense and intercompany charges, interest, LIFO and income taxes.