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VOL. 39 | NO. 8 | Friday, February 20, 2015

Home Depot approves $18B buyback; boosts dividend 26 pct.

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ATLANTA (AP) — Home Depot authorized the repurchase of $18 billion of its own shares and boosted its quarterly dividend by 26 percent.

The home-improvement store also beat Wall Street expectations for profit and revenue during the fourth quarter and it released a better-than-expected outlook for the year.

Shares rose more than 3 percent before the opening bell and appeared headed for an all-time high.

Home Depot is riding and improving, if unsteady housing market.

The National Association of Realtors said Monday that sales of existing homes tumbled 4.9 percent last month to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 4.82 million. That brings sales down to their lowest level since April 2014.

Still, homes did sell at a rate 3.2 percent faster than January 2014 and Home Depot has been a beneficiary. The company this month announced that it would hire 80,000 workers to handle increased traffic over the spring and summer.

It hired the same number of workers last year during the home building and improvement season.

The Atlanta company's buyback program announced Tuesday replaces a prior authorization. Home Depot has returned more than $53 billion of cash to shareholders through buybacks from 2002 through Feb. 1. The chain plans to complete $18 billion in buybacks by fiscal 2017's end.

Its dividend will now be 59 cents per share. The dividend will be paid on March 26 to shareholders of record on March 12. Home Depot said it's the 112th consecutive quarter that it has paid a cash dividend.

Home Depot posted fourth-quarter profit of $1.38 billion, or $1.05 per share, for the period ended Feb. 1. Excluding a gain related to the sale of a portion of HD Supply, its profit was $1 per share. That's well above the 89 cents per share that analysts had expected, according to a survey by FactSet.

Revenue was $19.16 billion, also better than Wall Street's projection of $18.68 billion.

Sales at stores open at least a year rose 7.9 percent in the quarter, 8.9 percent if only U.S. stores are counted.

"While some of it could have been driven by weather concerns ahead of the harsh weather in February, we think the upside to comp came mostly from the housing recovery and market share gains," wrote Kate McShane of Citibank on Tuesday.

For the year, Home Depot earned $4.71 per share on revenue of $83.18 billion.

The company now expects 2015 earnings of between $5.11 and $5.17 per share. Revenue is expected to climb about 3.5 to 4.7 percent.

Wall Street is looking for full-year earnings of $4.50 per share.

The Home Depot Inc. had 2,269 retail stores in all 50 states, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, U.S. Virgin Islands, Guam, 10 Canadian provinces and Mexico at the fourth quarter's end.

Shares, which rose $4.04 to $116.32 in premarket trading, are already up 14 percent over the past three months in a year in which the company has repeatedly hit new highs.

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RECORD TOTALS DAY WEEK YEAR
PROPERTY SALES 0 0 0
MORTGAGES 0 0 0
FORECLOSURE NOTICES 0 0 0
BUILDING PERMITS 0 0 0
BANKRUPTCIES 0 0 0
BUSINESS LICENSES 0 0 0
UTILITY CONNECTIONS 0 0 0
MARRIAGE LICENSES 0 0 0