Staples' Profit Rises, Initiates Dividend, Names New Board Member
Mar 4, 2004
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Staples Inc., says its quarterly profit rose 29 percent, as small business customers boosted North American retail sales. The business-appliance and office-supply retailer has also named Gary Crittenden to its board. Mr. Crittenden is an executive vice president and CFO at the American Express Co.

The company's stock has risen more than 60 percent in the past year, and its sales at stores open at least a year continue to accelerate, allowing Staples to pull ahead of its chief competitor Office Depot Inc.

"We've re-dedicated ourselves to that small business customer. And that small business customer uses a lot of office supplies," said CEO Ron Sargent, speaking on CNBC.

Looking ahead, the company said it expects earnings per share in both the first quarter and the year to grow 20 percent, and revenues to grow 10 percent. Staples expects North American retail sales at stores open at least a year to increase in the low, single-digit range.

Mr. Sargent said the company plans to open 150 stores and that it is looking to hire, though not at the management level.

The company, which is based in Framingham, MA, U.S., said net income was U.S. $211.8 million, or $0.42 per share, compared with $165 million, or $0.35 per share, a year earlier.

Analysts on average expected earnings of $0.41 per share, according to Reuters Research.

Staples also has initiated a first-ever annual cash dividend of $0.20 per share, payable on May 17, 2004. The company also said it is authorized to repurchase up to $1 billion of common stock in the next tw2o years, and expects to buy back about $400 million in the current year.

Sales during the quarter grew 10 percent to $3.7 billion. North American retail sales at stores open at least a year grew 4 percent.
Staples owns 1,500 stores in North America and Europe. (Reuters)

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