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Express beats fourth-quarter expectations, but offers flat comp-sales guidance for first three months

Retailer's CEO said while full-year results "were below plan, our performance showed improvement over the course of the year"
woman wearing dress and necklace
"We were particularly pleased with the performance of our e-commerce business, which continues its significant growth"

Express Inc (NYSE:EXPR) reported fourth-quarter results that beat analyst estimates but traded flat in early going Wednesday as comparable-store sales guidance for the apparel retailer's fiscal first quarter is flat.

After opening higher, Express was down 2.4% at mid-morning, at US$7.22 a share.

Express posted net income for the 14 weeks to Feb 3, 2018, of US$29.4mln, or 37 US cents a share. Those numbers beat its earnings of US$22.8mln, or 29 US cents a share, in the 13 weeks that ended Jan. 28, 2017, and also were better than analysts' consensus estimate of 32 cents a share.

Sales in the quarter rose 2.2%, to US$693.8mln from US$678.8mln a year earlier. Analysts had put sales expectations at US$680.7mln.

For the 53 weeks that ended Feb 3, 2018, Express reported net income of US$19.4mln, or 25 US cents a share, which was down 66% from earnings of US$57.4mln, or 73 US cents a share, in the 52 weeks that ended Jan. 28, 2017. Sales for the fiscal year slipped 2.5%, to US$2.14bn from US$2.18bn.

Express president and CEO David Kornberg said while the company's overall 2017 full-year results "were below plan, our performance showed improvement over the course of the year, as our key initiatives gained traction".

"We were particularly pleased with the performance of our e-commerce business, which continues its significant growth and accounted for over US$500mnl in sales in 2017," Kornberg said.

The CEO said the company's financial position "remains strong, with more than US$235mln in cash and no debt" and that it generated solid cash flow. 

Kornberg noted that Express has used US$25mln to buy back 3.2 million shares of its stock under a US$150mln share repurchase program its board authorized last November, "underscoring our confidence in the business and commitment to driving shareholder value".

Looking ahead, Express said it expected comparable-store sales in the first quarter to be in the range of down 1% to up 1%, with bottom-line results in the range of flat to a loss of US$3mln, or 4 US cents a share. For the full year, Express again offered guidance of comparable-store sales in the range of down 1% to up 1%, with net income for the year in the range of US$25mln to US$35mln, or 32 US cents to 46 US cents a share.

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