TJX 1Q Profit Climbs, Shoppers Looking For Bargains

BOSTON (AP) -- TJX Cos. said Tuesday its first-quarter profit rose nearly 20 percent as the discount retailer continued to draw shoppers increasingly looking for bargains in a tough economy.

But its pretax profit margin was below its expectations, and its shares fell more than 4 percent in morning trading.

The Framingham, Mass.-based operator of nearly 2,600 stores including T.J. Maxx and Marshalls said Tuesday its net income rose to $193.8 million, or 43 cents per share, in the three months ended April 26. That's up from a profit of $162.1 million, or 34 cents per share, a year earlier.

While TJX's result a year ago was hurt by a $12 million charge from a massive data breach, this year's first-quarter profit was boosted $12 million from a tax benefit.

Not counting that benefit, TJX's profit in the latest period was 41 cents per share, matching the consensus estimate of analysts surveyed by Thomson Financial.

TJX's revenue rose 6 percent in the latest period to $4.36 billion, just shy of analysts' forecast of $4.39 billion. Sales at stores open at least a year rose 3 percent.

"We are pleased with our first-quarter performance, as we once again drove strong sales, merchandise margins, and profit growth despite the challenges of the consumer environment and unfavorable weather in the first two months," said Carol Meyrowitz, president and chief executive.

TJX said its pretax profit margin dipped slightly below its plan, and slightly below last year's first quarter, as costs from expansion in Europe were mostly offset by improved margins on merchandise. The company added 33 stores in the latest quarter.

TJX reiterated its expectations for a second-quarter profit of 40 cents to 42 cents per share, and full-year earnings of $2.20 to $2.25. Analysts expect a second-quarter profit of 43 cents per share, and $2.22 for the year.

TJX operates T.J. Maxx, Marshalls, HomeGoods, A.J. Wright and Bob's Stores in the United States, Winners and HomeSense stores in Canada, and T.K. Maxx stores in Europe.

Its shares fell $1.47, or 4.5 percent, to $30.67 in morning trading.

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