Tiffany & Co. said Friday net sales in the fourth quarter increased 4 percent to $1.2 billion year-over-year and net earnings rose 1 percent to $180 million. On a constant-exchange-rate basis that excludes the effect of translating foreign-currency-denominated sales into U.S. dollars, worldwide net sales rose 5 percent, for the period ended Jan. 31, due to growth in all regions and comparable store sales equaled the prior year.
For the year, also ended January 31, worldwide net sales increased 4 percent to $3.8 billion, year-over-year, while net earnings declined 5 percent to $416 million. Earnings fell 11 percent when excluding nonrecurring items in the prior year.
“These quarterly sales results were consistent with the holiday trends we had issued in early January,” said Michael J. Kowalski, Tiffany chairman and CEO. “While financial results in fiscal 2012 were disappointing due to lower-than-expected sales growth and pressures on gross margin, we continued to maintain a longer-term focus on strengthening global awareness of the Tiffany & Co. brand and on further developing compelling product offerings.”
Kowalski took an optimistic tone for Tiffany’s 2013 outlook. “We will be pursuing important growth opportunities in 2013, with plans including exciting new jewelry collections, enhanced customer communications through print and digital media, and expansion of our global base with additional stores,” he said. “Tiffany is well positioned to achieve net earnings growth of 6 percent – 9 percent and healthy free cash flow.”
Net sales highlights are as follows:
* Total sales in the Americas region increased 2 percent to $620 million in the fourth quarter and 2 percent to $1.8 billion in the full year (representing 48 percent of 2012 worldwide sales). On a constant-exchange-rate basis, total sales increased 2 percent in both the quarter and full year; on that basis, comparable store sales declined 2 percent in both the quarter and full year. Sales in the New York flagship store fell 3 percent in both the quarter and full year, while comparable branch store sales were 2 percent below both prior-year periods with no meaningful geographical differences in the U.S.). Internet and catalog sales rose 6 percent and 4 percent in the fourth quarter and full year.
* In the Asia-Pacific region, total sales rose 13 percent to $254 million in the fourth quarter and 8% to $810 million, or 21% of worldwide sales, in the full year. On a constant-exchange-rate basis, total sales rose 10% in the fourth quarter due to sales growth in Greater China and in other markets and rose 8% in the full year; on that basis, comparable store sales rose 6% in the quarter and 2% in the full year.
* Total sales in Japan declined 6 percent to $192 million in the fourth quarter, reflecting a weaker Japanese yen versus the U.S. dollar. Sales for the full year increased 4 percent to $639 million, or 17 percent. However, on a constant-exchange-rate basis, total sales rose 2 percent in the quarter and 6 percent. Comparable store sales rose 2 percent and 7 percent in the quarter and full year.
* In Europe, total sales increased 3 percent to $146 million in the fourth quarter due to mixed performances by country and also rose 3% to $432 million, or 11% of worldwide sales, in the full year. On a constant-exchange-rate basis, total sales increased 3% and 7% in the quarter and full year and comparable store sales were unchanged in the quarter and rose 2% in the full year.
* Sales categorized “Other,” nearly doubled to $24 million in the fourth quarter and rose 41 percent to $73 million in the full year. The strong growth in both periods reflected the conversion in July of five Tiffany & Co. stores in the United Arab Emirates from independently-operated distribution to company-operated retail stores.
* Tiffany added 28 company-operated stores in the full year: 13 in the Americas with four in the U.S., six in Canada (including four department-store boutiques in Canada that were converted to company-operated locations), two in Mexico and one in Brazil; eight in Asia-Pacific including six in China, one in Australia and one in Singapore; two in Europe including one in France and one in the Czech Republic; and the five stores in the U.A.E. The company currently operates 275 stores (115 in the Americas, 66 in Asia-Pacific, 55 in Japan, 34 in Europe and five in the U.A.E.), compared with 247 stores a year ago.
Tiffany’s other financial highlights:
* Gross margins (gross profit as a percentage of net sales) of 59.1 percent in the fourth quarter and 57 percent for the full year were below margins of 60.4 percent and 59 percent in the respective prior-year periods. The declines largely reflected pressures from precious metal and diamond costs; a shift in sales mix toward higher-priced, lower margin products; and reduced sales leverage on fixed costs.
* SG&A (selling, general and administrative) expenses increased 2 percent in the fourth quarter. In the full year, SG&A expenses increased 2 percent; however, if nonrecurring costs related to the 2011 relocation of Tiffany's New York headquarters staff were excluded, SG&A expense would have increased 5 percent (see "Non-GAAP Measures" schedule) in the full year due to store occupancy costs related to new and existing stores, increased marketing spending and higher labor costs.
* Other expenses, net were $14 million and $54 million in the fourth quarter and full year, compared with $13 million and $43 million in the respective prior-year periods. Increased average borrowing levels have resulted in higher interest expense in both periods.
* Net inventories of $2.2 billion at January 31 were 8 percent higher than the prior year-end, reflecting 13 percent growth in finished goods inventory and 2 percent growth in combined raw materials and work-in-process, all to support new store openings and expanded product assortments.
* Capital expenditures of $220 million in 2012 were modestly lower than $239 million in the prior year; 2011 had included expenditures for the relocation of Tiffany's headquarters staff.
* In the full year, the company spent $54 million to repurchase approximately 813,000 shares of its Common Stock at an average cost of $66.54 per share, but did not repurchase shares in the fourth quarter. Approximately $164 million remains available for repurchases under the currently authorized program which expires in January 2014.
In its outlook, the company expects worldwide net sales to grow 6 percent to 8 percent in U.S dollars. On a constant-exchange-rate basis, an expected high-single-digit percentage increase in worldwide net sales includes sales growth in all regions, ranging from a mid-teens percentage increase in Asia-Pacific to a low-single-digit increase in Japan.
The company said it plans to open 15 new company-operated stores including five in the Americas, seven in Asia-Pacific, three in Europe; while closing one in Japan. It also plans and to refurbish a number of existing locations around the world.
It expects net earnings from operations increasing 6 percent to 9 percent to a range of $3.43-$3.53 per diluted share. Net earnings from operations are expected to decline approximately 15 percent- 20 percent in the first quarter due to gross margin pressure and higher marketing-related costs, to be followed by earnings growth in all subsequent quarters. In addition, this forecast excludes $0.05 per diluted share of expected first quarter charges for staffing and occupancy adjustments.
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