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Lowe's Reports Record Sales and Earnings for the Third Quarter

- Earnings Per Share Increased 20%
- Sales Increased 15%
- Endorses $0.48 EPS Estimate for 4Q00
- Discusses Public Disclosure Policy

- Earnings Per Share Increased 20%
- Sales Increased 15%
- Endorses $0.48 EPS Estimate for 4Q00
- Discusses Public Disclosure Policy

WILKESBORO, N.C., Nov. 13 -- Lowe's Companies, Inc. (NYSE: LOW), the world's second largest home improvement retailer, today reported diluted earnings per share of $0.53 for the quarter ended October 27, 2000, a 20 percent increase over the same period a year ago. Net earnings also increased 20 percent to $202.3 million from $168.7 million in the third quarter of 1999.

For the nine months ended October 27, 2000, net earnings grew 28 percent to $669.0 million while diluted earnings per share increased 27 percent to $1.74. Prior year results include a one-time charge of $0.04 per share for costs related to the merger with Eagle Hardware and Garden, Inc. on April 2, 1999. Excluding the one-time charge, net earnings increased 24 percent and diluted earnings per share increased 23 percent over the same period a year ago.

Sales for the quarter increased 15 percent to $4.50 billion, up from $3.91 billion in the third quarter of 1999. Sales at the company's comparable stores were flat for the quarter. For the nine months ended October 27, 2000, sales increased 17 percent to $14.24 billion. Comparable store sales increased 2.6 percent in the first nine months of 2000.

"As we indicated in our October 6, 2000 press release, comparable store sales performance continues to be primarily impacted by two factors," said Robert L. Tillman, Lowe's chairman and CEO. "First, we continue to experience significant deflation within the lumber and building materials categories. In addition, the stores formerly operating under the Eagle Hardware and Garden name were disrupted by merchandising enhancements implemented during the quarter. These combined factors negatively impacted the company's comparable store sales results by over 400 basis points in the third quarter and are expected to continue to affect the company's comparable store sales results in the fourth quarter."

Also affecting sales has been a much-discussed general softening in the economy and, more specifically, softer consumer spending patterns. "We've seen some indications of a slowdown, but customer traffic remains high and our average transaction continues to expand," Tillman noted. "Strength in bigger-ticket items such as appliances and kitchen cabinets is atypical in a slowing environment -- and both of these categories continue to outpace the company as a whole. With unemployment at historic lows, and consumer confidence remaining high, many indicators continue to point to an overall healthy economy."

The company's comparable store sales from its large Lowe's stores, excluding the former Eagle stores, was 3.4 percent in the third quarter. Currently, 88 percent of Lowe's store base is 80,000 square feet and larger. As a result of its aggressive relocation program, Lowe's expects to operate approximately 40 smaller format stores at the end of 2000 and plans to reduce that number to approximately 20 by the end of 2001.

During the quarter, Lowe's opened 24 new stores, relocated three stores and closed four stores. As of October 27, 2000, Lowe's operates 624 stores in 40 states. Retail square footage grew to 63.8 million, a 21 percent increase over the same period a year ago.

A conference call to discuss third quarter results is scheduled for today (Monday, November 13th) at 9:00 a.m. EST. Please dial 719-457-2621 (confirmation code 411273) to participate. A webcast of the call will take place simultaneously and can be accessed by visiting Lowe's website at www.lowes.com and clicking on Company Information and then Investor Information. A replay of the call will be archived on www.lowes.com for 48 hours.

Policy Regarding Information Disclosure and Regulation FD

Lowe's has revised its disclosure policy in conjunction with new SEC rules on corporate disclosure. The company will provide forward-looking statements in its quarterly earnings releases in a section titled Lowe's Business Outlook. Lowe's Business Outlook will describe the company's outlook for the future and include guidance on total sales, comparable store sales and earnings, as well as other information management deems appropriate. Information included in Lowe's Business Outlook is based upon available data at the time of publication. From time to time, if deemed appropriate, management may choose to update Lowe's Business Outlook. However, management undertakes no obligation to update any forward-looking statement, whether as a result of new information, future events, or otherwise. If an update is deemed appropriate, the information will be in the form of a public release. Lowe's will continue the practice of participating in analysts' conferences and meeting privately with analysts, investors and the media.

In addition, the company is formalizing a "Quiet Period." The period will begin ten business days prior to the end of each fiscal quarter and extend until the public release of earnings. During this period, Lowe's representatives will not comment on current trends or future expectations.

Lowe's Business Outlook

This outlook is based on current expectations and includes "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.

Fourth Quarter 2000 (comparisons to fourth quarter 1999)

  • The company expects to complete the quarter and fiscal year 2000 with approximately 650 stores in 40 states

  • A total sales increase of 24 to 26 percent is expected for the 14 weeks ended February 2, 2001 compared to the 13 weeks ended January 28, 2000

  • The company expects to report a comparable store sales increase of 1 to 3 percent for the 14 weeks ended February 2, 2001 compared against the 14 weeks ended February 4, 2000

  • Comparable store sales performance is expected to be negatively affected by approximately 300 to 400 basis points in the fourth quarter due to continued deflation in lumber and building materials as well as the remerchandising efforts that were implemented at the stores formerly operating under the Eagle Hardware and Garden name

  • Gross margin is expected to be flat to a 10 basis point improvement on a year over year basis

  • SG&A expenses are expected to de-leverage 25 to 35 basis points as a percent of sales on a year over year comparison

  • Total expense de-leverage of approximately 10 to 20 basis points is expected

  • The company is currently comfortable with the fourth quarter consensus earnings estimate, as published by First Call, of $0.48 per share for the period ending February 2, 2001

  • Lowe's fiscal year and fourth quarter ends on February 2, 2001 with operating results to be publicly released on Monday, February 26, 2001

Outlook for 2001 - 2003

  • The company expects total sales growth of approximately 20 percent per year

  • Square footage is expected to increase 18 to 20 percent per year

  • 2001 expansion plans call for 120 to 125 new stores, including 15 to 20 store relocations

  • A comparable store sales increase of 4 to 6 percent is expected

  • Annual gross margin improvements of 20 to 25 basis points are expected

  • Operating margins should increase by 25 to 30 basis points per year

  • Earnings per share are expected to increase 22 to 23 percent annually

This news release includes "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, the direction of general economic trends, the availability of real estate for expansion and its successful development, the availability of sufficient labor to facilitate growth, fluctuations in prices and availability of product, unanticipated increases in competition, weather conditions that affect sales, and greater than anticipated disruption associated with the integration of Eagle Hardware and Garden with Lowe's.

Lowe's Companies, Inc. is the world's second largest home improvement retailer. Headquartered in Wilkesboro, N.C., Lowe's is the 15th largest retailer in the U.S. as well as the 34th largest retailer worldwide. Lowe's and its 100,000 employees are Improving Home Improvement for nearly five million do-it-yourself retail and commercial business customers each week.

Lowe's Companies, Inc. 11/13/2000
CONTACT: 
Marshall Croom, shareholders-analysts, 336-658-4022,
or Carson Anderson, shareholders-analysts, 336-658-4385,
or Chris Ahearn, media, 336-658-7387, all of Lowe's Companies/