(Reuters) - TJX Cos Inc (TJX.N), the owner of the low-price T.J. Maxx and Marshalls chains, on Wednesday reported higher fourth-quarter results and said it plans to expand its chains abroad and domestically this year and finally introduce e-commerce.
TJX, whose websites do not currently let customers shop, intends to begin testing e-commerce toward the end of the year. That, along with store expansion, puts TJX "well on the road to being a $40 billion-plus company," said Chief Executive Carol Meyrowitz.
The company also announced it was raising its quarterly dividend 26 percent to 14.5 cents, and shares were up 1.4 percent to $44.29 in late morning trading.
But TJX's profit forecast for the new fiscal year fell below Wall Street projections, and the retailer forecast same-store sales growth of 1 percent to 2 percent, far more modest than last year's 7 percent clip.
"In 2013, we will continue our investments to support our growth, investing in infrastructure, store growth, and e-commerce," Meyrowitz said on a conference call.
It forecast a full-year profit of $2.66 per share to $2.78 per share, compared with Wall Street expectations of $2.84 per share, according to Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S.
The company, which sells designer clothing and home goods at significantly lower prices than department stores, has grown quickly by attracting price-conscious shoppers and expanding at home and abroad.
Last year, it had annual sales of $25.9 billion, double what it brought in eight years earlier and nearly as much as Macy's Inc (M.N).
TJX now thinks the market can support 2,400 to 2,600 stores in its combined Marshalls and T.J. Maxx chains, or 100 to 200 more than its previous estimate. There are 1,943 stores now.
It also thinks the Canadian market is big enough for about 430 stores. TJX currently has 324 stores there.
TJX "still has significant opportunity to gain market share, both in the U.S. and internationally," Lazard Capital Markets analyst Jennifer Davis wrote in a note.
Meyrowitz pointed to opportunities from an expansion into more rural markets, the early success of its first Marshalls stores in Canada, where it also operates the Winners chain, and a big improvement in its European business.
The retailer reported net income of $604.8 million, or 82 cents per share for the 14 weeks ended February 2, compared with $475.3 million or 62 cents per share for the 13 weeks ended January 28, 2012.
As previously reported, TJX's same-store sales rose 4 percent during the holiday season.
The company said that after the current quarter, it would stop reporting sales on a monthly basis, and only do so after each quarter, joining companies like Macy's and Target Corp (TGT.N) that recently dropped monthly reports.
(Reporting by Phil Wahba in Toronto; Editing by Gerald E. McCormick, Nick Zieminski and David Gregorio)