W.W. Grainger, Inc.’s (GWW - Free Report) third-quarter 2018 adjusted earnings per share of $4.19 improved 44% year over year. Further, earnings beat the Zacks Consensus Estimate of $3.96 by a margin of around 6%. Stellar sales, operating expense leverage and a lower tax rate drove Grainger’s improved third-quarter performance.
Including one-time items, such as restructuring charges and other charges, earnings came in at $1.82 per share in the reported quarter, down 35% from $2.79 recorded in the year-ago quarter.
Grainger reported revenues of $2,831 million, up 7% from the prior-year quarter figure of $2,636 million. This was driven by an increase of 7 percentage point (pp) from volume growth and 1 pp increase in price, partially offset by 1 pp a decline from foreign exchange. The revenue figure missed the Zacks Consensus Estimate of $2,849 million. Shares of Grainger fell nearly 8% in pre-market trading following the third-quarter earnings release.
Adjusted cost of sales increased 8% year over year to $1,752 million. Adjusted gross profit climbed 6% to $1,079 million from $1,018 million recorded in the year-earlier quarter. Gross margin shrunk 50 basis points (bps) to 38.1%.
Grainger’s adjusted operating income in the Sep-end quarter increased 15% to $332 million from $287 million recorded in the prior-year quarter. Adjusted operating margin expanded 80 bps to 11.7% in the quarter from 10.9% in the year-earlier quarter.
Grainger had cash and cash equivalents of $517 million at the end of the third quarter compared with $327 million at the end of 2017. Cash provided by operating activities increased to $743 million during the nine-month period ended Sep 30, 2018, compared with $721 million reported in the comparable period last year.
Long-term debt was $2.2 billion as of Sep 30, 2018, compared with $2.3 billion as of Dec 31, 2017. During the Jul-Sep quarter, the company returned $159 million in cash to shareholders through $77 million in dividends and $82 million to buy back 243,000 shares.
Share Price Performance
Over the past year, Grainger has outperformed the industry with respect to price performance. The stock has gained around 74% compared with 33% growth registered by the industry.
Zacks Rank & Other Key Picks
Grainger carries a Zacks Rank #2 (Buy).
Other similarly-ranked stocks in the same space include HD Supply Holdings, Inc. (HDS - Free Report) , AptarGroup, Inc. (ATR - Free Report) and Cintas Corporation (CTAS - Free Report) . You can see the complete list of today’s Zacks #1 (Strong Buy) Rank stocks here.
HD Supply has a long-term earnings growth rate of 15.7%. Its shares have gained 12% over the past year.
AptarGroup has a long-term earnings growth rate of 20%. The company’s shares have rallied 15% in the past year.
Cintas Corporation has a long-term earnings growth rate of 12%. The stock has climbed 22% in a year’s time.
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