Casey’s General Stores Inc. reported diluted earnings per share of $0.58 for the third quarter of fiscal 2017 ended Jan. 31, 2017, compared to $0.97 per share for the same quarter a year ago. Year to date, diluted earnings per share were $3.72 versus $4.54 a year ago.
“Although pressures in our operating area persisted throughout the quarter, the Company continues to be an industry leader in same-store sales growth,” stated Terry Handley, president and CEO. “As a demonstration of our commitment to creating shareholder value, the Board of Directors authorized a new share repurchase program of up to an aggregate of $300 million of the Company’s outstanding common stock. We are excited about implementing the share repurchase program while at the same time accelerating future store growth.”
The Company’s annual goal for fiscal 2017 is to increase same-store gallons sold 2.0% with an average margin of 18.4 cents per gallon. For the quarter, same-store gallons sold were up 2.6% with an average margin of 17.9 cents per gallon.
“Retail fuel prices remained low and the fuel saver programs continued to benefit same-store gallons sold,” said Handley. “Fuel margin per gallon for the quarter was slightly below the same quarter a year ago primarily due to rising wholesale costs throughout most of the quarter, partially offset by an increase in renewable fuel credit sales.”
The Company sold 16.3 million renewable fuel credits for $14.5 million during the third quarter, compared to 15.2 million renewable fuel credits in the third quarter of the prior year, which generated $9.2 million. For the nine months ended January 31, 2017, total gallons sold were up 6.5% to 1.6 billion gallons. Gross profit dollars for the same time period were down 1.0% to $292.8 million primarily due to a lower margin per gallon. Year to date, same-store gallons were up 3.0% with an average margin of 18.7 cents per gallon.
Grocery & Other Merchandise
Casey’s annual goal for fiscal 2017 is to increase same-store sales 6.2% with an average margin of 32.0%. For the quarter, same-store sales were up 3.0% with an average margin of 31.1%. “The third quarter margin is in line with the same time period a year ago”, said Handley. “Same-store sales for the category were consistent with the second quarter, however same-store sales excluding cigarettes accelerated from the previous quarter.” Year to date, same-store sales were up 3.5% with an average margin of 31.6%. Total sales for the first nine months were up 6.1% to $1.6 billion while total gross profit dollars increased 5.4% to $501.8 million.
Prepared Food & Fountain
The goal for fiscal 2017 is to increase same-store sales 10.2% with an average margin of 62.5%. Same-store sales for the quarter were up 5.8% with an average margin of 61.7%.
“Total sales for the third quarter were up 8.9%, and same-store sales accelerated from the second quarter,” said Handley. “Total mobile app downloads have surpassed 700,000, and over 13% of whole pizzas sold now come from digital orders. We are encouraged by this growth from our first step towards increasing digital engagement with our customers.”
Year to date, total prepared food and fountain sales were up 8.7% to $720.3 million, and total gross profit dollars were up 8.4% to $450.3 million. For the first nine months, same-store sales were up 5.4% with an average margin of 62.5%.
In the third quarter, operating expenses increased 12.6% to $292.3 million. Year to date, operating expenses increased 11.2% to $879.7 million.
“Both the quarter-to-date and year-to-date increases were in-line with our expectations, and primarily driven by an increase in wages due to operating more stores this year compared to the same period one year ago, the continued rollout of the various growth programs, and wage rate increases,” said Handley. “In addition, credit card fees and fuel expense combined were up $3.5 million for the quarter due to a 12.6% increase in retail fuel prices from the same time period a year ago.”
The Company’s annual goal for fiscal 2017 is to build or acquire 77 to 116 stores, replace 35 existing locations, and complete 100 major remodels. Through nine months, the Company built and opened 24 new stores, acquired 14 stores, completed 19 replacements, and remodeled 56 stores. In addition, the Company currently has 33 new stores, 21 replacement stores, and 46 major remodel stores under construction. Finally, the Company has 91 sites under agreement for future new-store construction and eight acquisition stores under contract to purchase.
“We are encouraged by the growing pipeline of new-store constructions,” said Handley. “We have and will continue to take steps to add resources in order to sustain a higher number of future new-store constructions, while remaining focused on acquisition opportunities.”
Under the approved share repurchase program, the Company is authorized to repurchase up to an aggregate of $300 million of the Company’s outstanding common stock. The share repurchase authorization is valid for a period of two years. The timing and number of repurchase transactions under the program will depend on a variety of factors, including but not limited to market conditions, corporate considerations, business opportunities, debt agreements, and regulatory requirements. The program, which can be suspended or discontinued at any time, will enhance the Company’s overall approach to capital allocation, which includes a growing new-store pipeline and dividend payments.
“Total shareholder return remains a strong focus of the Board and management. We believe the share repurchase program provides another way to deliver value to our shareholders,” stated Handley.