Lowe's shares rise as retailer announces $10 billion stock buyback, 2019 forecast

Key Points
  • Lowe's during its annual investor day announces a $10 billion stock buyback program.
  • The home improvement retailer issues its financial targets for fiscal 2019.
  • Lowe's reiterates its profit outlook for fiscal 2018.
A Lowe's employee walks through the store during the grand opening of the Lowe's store in San Francisco, California.
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Lowe's shares jumped Wednesday after the company announced a $10 billion stock buyback program and issued its financial targets for fiscal 2019.

The home improvement retailer reiterated its prior earnings forecast for fiscal 2018, and said earnings per share would rise to a range of $6.00 and $6.10 for fiscal 2019. Analysts had been calling for earnings per share of $5.90, according to FactSet data.

Lowe's shares were down roughly 1.5 percent before they were halted for news. Once the stock started trading again, it was up near 3 percent, and in midday trading was up 4 percent. Lowe's shares have fallen modestly so far this year and the company's market cap is at $74.7 billion.

During a meeting with investors, CEO Marvin Ellison walked through the steps Lowe's is taking to continue to grow sales and compete with rival Home Depot, as well as Amazon. That includes shutting unprofitable stores and investing in e-commerce. He said the company has to "get back to basics" and focus on fundamental things like customer service and having the right merchandise in stock.

For fiscal 2019, Lowe's is calling for total sales to be up about 2 percent, with sales at Lowe's stores open for at least 12 months rising about 3 percent. The retailer continues to expect sales for fiscal 2018 to be up about 4 percent, with same-store sales climbing 2.5 percent. Lowe's earlier this year cut its full fiscal 2018 forecast.

"We anticipate that targeted initiatives designed to drive profitable sales, combined with an expense reduction culture, will allow us to generate significant cash flow from operations over the next three years," Lowe's CFO David Denton said in a statement. "We are committed to investing in the business while also returning excess cash to shareholders, and strongly believe we can deliver substantial value to all stakeholders."

Lowe's said it will have opened eight home improvement stores by the end of fiscal 2018. That's as the company said last month it expects to shut 51 underperforming stores across the U.S. and Canada, while it's also made the decisions to wind down its Orchard Supply business and end its Mexico retail operations.

Ellison, who joined Lowe's from J.C. Penney in July and also used to work at Home Depot, has said he promises to pivot the company away from unsuccessful ventures.

"The decision [by Lowe's] to refocus on the core home improvement business in the U.S. and Canada should serve as a tailwind in 2019, with some of the proceeds likely to be reinvested in the business," Telsey Advisory Group analyst Joseph Feldman said. "That should reflect a narrowing of the performance gap vs. its main competitor, Home Depot."

Correction: This story has been updated to say Lowe's fiscal 2019 earnings per share will be between $6.00 and $6.10.

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