UPDATE 5-Best Buy results, same-store sales weak; shares tumble

Tue Nov 20, 2012 11:32am EST

* Adj profit 3 cents/share vs Street view 12 cents

* U.S. same-store sales fall 4 percent

* Sees less steep decline in operating profit in 4th quarter

* Shares tumble 14 percent

By Dhanya Skariachan and Olivia Oran

Nov 20 (Reuters) - Best Buy Co Inc shares fell to their lowest level in a decade on Tuesday as the electronics retailer reported a weaker-than-expected quarterly profit and same-store sales fell for the ninth time in 10 quarters.

The shares tumbled 14 percent to $11.79 in morning trading, highlighting the challenges the company's new chief executive faces in trying to turn around the world's largest consumer electronics chain.

The news came just days before the unofficial start of the holiday shopping season and amid a wide restructuring under CEO Hubert Joly and a looming buyout proposal from founder Richard Schulze.

"The results we are reporting today only strengthen our sense of urgency and purpose," said Joly, who took the helm of Best Buy in September.

The company is a victim of aggressive competition from online and discount rivals and what critics call a failure to adapt to a changing retail environment.

Critics say Best Buy stores are hurting because they have become showrooms for Amazon.com Inc and other online retailers, as shoppers check out electronics like high-definition TVs and then buy them elsewhere for less.

"Few people are going to be willing to pay $80 for a cable in-store when they know they can buy an equivalent product online for $5," said Rakesh Agrawal, principal analyst at San Francisco-based consulting firm reDesign Mobile.

On a conference call, Best Buy executives said they expected the retailer to benefit from its promise to match competitors' prices on some items during the holiday shopping season, and from additional training it gave workers at its stores.

Outgoing Chief Financial Officer Jim Muehlbauer tried to reassure investors that things will get better in the all-important holiday quarter.

"We do not expect fourth-quarter operating income to decline at rates experienced in the third quarter," Muehlbauer said, citing new products, better inventory management.

Some Best Buy investors say the company's weak results and Joly's plan make them more willing to consider a buyout offer from Schulze.

Best Buy "certainly has a right to exist, but at a much smaller scale," said Frank Lombardi III, a portfolio manager at Cubic Asset Management in Boston, which has $400 million under management. "I think the long-term strategy for them to operate as a public company and for them to use my capital to execute a strategy is ultimately flawed."

Schulze is expected to submit a final buyout proposal for Best Buy in December after seeing how the company is performing in the crucial holiday season, sources have told Reuters.

He is currently working with at least three private equity firms to line up financing for a deal. Any new bid is likely to come in below his initial proposed of $24 to $26 per share, made in August. Best Buy's stock has tumbled since then.

Best Buy, which also faces cutthroat competition from the likes of Wal-Mart Stores Inc and Apple Inc, said its net loss was $13 million, or 4 cents a share, in the third quarter, ended Nov.3, compared with a year-earlier profit of $173 million, or 47 cents a share.

Excluding restructuring charges, the company earned 3 cents a share, far below analysts' average estimate of 12 cents, according to Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S.

Sales fell to $10.75 billion from $11.15 billion.

Sales at stores open at least 14 months fell 4.3 percent, including a 4 percent decline at the company's U.S. unit.

Best Buy's domestic business suffered from higher selling, general and administrative costs, falling sales, and customers' holding back on some purchases in anticipation of major product launches.

While demand was strong for mobile phones, appliances, tablet computers and e-readers, there were few takers for notebook computers, gaming products and televisions.

Same-store sales fell 5.2 percent at the company's international unit, hurt by weak sales in Canada and China.

A couple walks along the rough surf during sunset at Oahu's North Shore, December 26, 2013. REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque

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