Why Costco Stock Isn’t Being Rewarded for a Good Q4

Costco Wholesale Corp. (NASDAQ: COST) reported fourth-quarter and fiscal 2020 results after markets closed on Thursday. The big-box club store posted quarterly diluted earnings per share (EPS) of $3.13 on revenue of $52.3 billion. In the same period a year ago, Costco reported EPS of $2.47 on revenue of $46.45 billion. Fourth-quarter results also compare to consensus estimates calling for EPS of $2.85 and $52.1 billion in revenue.

For the full year, sales rose more than 9% to $163.22 billion and EPS rose 9% to $9.02. Annual profits topped $4 billion for the first time in the company’s history.

Fourth-quarter results included a $0.47 per share charge for expenses related to the COVID-19 pandemic and a charge of $0.06 per share for early debt repayment.

Same-store sales rose by 11.4% in the quarter and by 7.7% for the full year. Excluding gasoline price changes and foreign exchange effects, same-store sales rose 14.1% in the quarter and 9.2% for the year. E-commerce sales rose by 90.6% (91.3% with adjustments) for the quarter and 49.5% (50.1%) for the year.

The company did not provide a forecast but analysts are expecting first-quarter sales totaling $39.9 billion and EPS of $1.91. For the 2021 fiscal year, initial estimates call for EPS of $9.44 and sales of $176.3 billion.

Investors have been mostly unimpressed with the store’s results. At a trading price of around $338.00 early Friday morning, the stock trades at nearly 36 times earnings. The multiple on expected 2022 earnings is more than 34. That’s pretty rich and investors are a bit wary.

The impact on earnings from pandemic-related costs like sanitization and extra payments to employees could continue into the current quarter and even longer. Investors also may be worried that those costs could continue into the next quarter as well.

Early analyst reaction has been positive, however. Five new calls were out early Friday:

  • Morgan Stanley reiterated its Overweight rating and raised its price target from $330 to $360.
  • BMO Capital Markets reiterated it as Outperform and raised its price target from $340 to $385.
  • Raymond James reiterated its Outperform rating and raised its price target from $355 to $365.
  • Deutsche Bank reiterated its Hold rating and raised its target price to $305 from $302.
  • Telsey Advisory Group reiterated it as Outperform and raised its price target from $385 to $390.

Costco’s stock traded down about 2.7% at $337.80 early Friday. The stock’s 52-week range is $271.28 to $363.67. The consensus price target is $354.37.

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