Whole Foods sees sales hit from Sandy, shares down

Wed Nov 7, 2012 6:31pm EST

(Reuters) - Whole Foods Market Inc (WFM.O), the largest U.S. natural and organic grocery chain, on Wednesday reported a profit rise in line with forecasts but said Superstorm Sandy has dragged sales this quarter, which sent its shares down 2 percent after hours.

The company reiterated profit and sales forecasts for 2013 and declared a 43 percent increase in its quarterly dividend to 20 cents per share.

Whole Foods said same-store sales, hit by Sandy-related store closures in the Northeast, were up 7.3 percent so far in the current quarter, slower growth than 8.5 percent in the latest quarter.

"Given many customers were without power and, thus, their shopping patterns were disrupted, we have not yet seen a full return to normal in these regions," John Mackey, co-founder and co-chief executive, told analysts on a conference call.

Austin, Texas-based Whole Foods said net income for its fiscal fourth quarter ended September 30 rose to $112.7 million, or 60 cents per share, from $75.5 million, or 42 cents per share, a year earlier, when there was one fewer week in the quarter.

The result was in line with estimates. Analysts on average had expected a profit of 60 cents per share, according to Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S.

Total sales for the quarter jumped 24 percent to $2.9 billion, helped by the extra week, an increase in transactions and shoppers' continued shift toward organic products and other discretionary items.

Whole Foods repeated its 2013 earnings forecast of $2.83 to $2.87 per share on same-store sales growth of 6.5 to 8.5 percent. It expects to record a one-time charge in the first quarter for estimated uninsured losses from Sandy.

Whole Foods shares, which closed at $95.93 on Nasdaq, fell to $94.05 in extended trading.

(Reporting by Lisa Baertlein in Los Angeles; Editing by Richard Chang and Alden Bentley)