Costco Wholesale Corp. (NASDAQ: COST) beat analysts’ expectations for both fourth-quarter and fiscal year results. The 27 percent boost in net income sent its shares up nearly 5 percent to a 52-week high in Wednesday trading.
The report indicates that Costco's low-cost, low-frills superstores still continue to thrive as thrifty consumers seek the best deals as the nation copes with slow economic growth. The Issaquah, Wash.-based chain also sells gas for less than many national chains.
Costco said same-store sales in the U.S. rose 6 percent and 2 percent outside the country in the quarter. Overall company sales rose 5 percent.
Net income in the 17 weeks that ended Sept. 2 rose to $609 million, $1.39 per share, compared to $478 million, or $1.08 a share, during the 16-week fourth quarter last year.
Net income for the year rose 17 percent to $1.71 billion, or $3.89 per diluted share. Toward the end of 2011, Costco raised the cost of fees consumers pay to become "members" qualified to shop in its 608 outlets. Membership revenue for the year rose 11 percent to $2.08 billion.
Analysts polled by Thomson Reuters had estimated fourth-quarter net income of $572.2 million, or $1.31 per share.
Costco's fourth-quarter revenue rose 14 percent from the fourth quarter of 2011, to $31.5 billion. Fiscal year revenue rose 12 percent to $97 billion from $88.9 billion.
Overall comparable-stores sales, which excludes stores open for less than a year, grew 5 percent in the quarter and 7 percent for the fiscal year.
The company operates 608 warehouses, including 82 in Canada, 32 in Mexico, 13 in Japan, nine in Taiwan, eight in South Korea and three in Australia. In June, the company announced it was buying out the 50 percent minority interest in its Costco Mexico subsidiary for $760 million.
Costco's shares rose as high as $104.43 in Wednesday trading before easing to $104.13, up $4.49.