Express 4Q results top analysts' expectations

Associated Press

COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) -- Express rode strong fourth-quarter sales to a 6 percent rise in net income, but shares slid in premarket trading Wednesday on a lackluster start to the year and a weak outlook.

The company saw less traffic in February and like other retailers, it saw higher taxes and rising gas prices cut into the money that its customers could spend on clothing.

Express, based in Columbus, Ohio, projected quarterly earnings of between 34 and 38 cents per share, which is short of the 46 cents that analysts had been forecasting. Its full-year projection for earnings between $1.40 and $1.54 per share also came up short. Wall Street was looking for something closer to $1.72 per share.

Company stock slid nearly 5 percent before the opening bell, to $17.96.

The company beat expectations for the fourth quarter, though an extra week in the reporting period added up to 4 cents extra per share.

For the period ended Feb. 2, Express Inc. earned $63.9 million, or 75 cents per share. That's up from $60.4 million, or 68 cents per share, a year earlier.

Analysts forecast earnings of 74 cents per share, according to a FactSet poll.

Revenue increased 8 percent to $728.7 million from $673.2 million. Wall Street expected $722.5 million in revenue.

Sales of sweaters and some knitwear strengthened, while online sales grew.

Revenue at stores open at least a year, a key gauge of a retailer's health, climbed 1.5 percent.

Full-year net income dipped 1 percent to $139.3 million, or $1.60 per share, from $140.7 million, or $1.58 per share, in the previous year.

Annual revenue rose 4 percent to $2.15 billion from $2.07 billion.

Revenue at stores open at least a year were flat.

Express Inc., which sells men's and women's clothing and accessories, runs more than 620 stores in the U.S., Canada and Puerto Rico. Its merchandise is also available at franchise stores in the Middle East and Latin America.