UPDATE 1-Whole Foods cuts 2014 sales, profit forecast; shares slip
(Adds details on profit forecast)
Feb 12 (Reuters) - Whole Foods Market Inc lowered its 2014 sales and profit forecast on Wednesday for the second time after first quarter revenue missed Wall Street expectations because of growing competition in the fresh and organic foods market.
The company's shares fell 5.8 percent to $52.25 in after hours trading.
Austin, Texas-based Whole Foods, the largest U.S. natural and organic grocery chain, now expects 2014 same-store sales growth of between 5.5 percent and 6.2 percent from a previous forecast range of 5.5 percent to 7 percent.
That is below the 8 percent growth rate Whole Foods investors have been used to in recent years and which long made the retailer a Wall Street darling.
Whole Foods has had to match prices of rivals as a growing number of retailers, including Kroger Co, Costco Wholesale Corp, Target Corp and even Wal-Mart Stores Inc have increased offerings of fresh and organic food, pressuring the grocer.
In November, Whole Foods lowered its 2014 sales outlook and blamed the price cuts needed to keep up with competitors.
Same-store sales, a key gauge of performance for retailers, rose 5.4 percent for the fiscal first quarter ended Jan. 19. Those sales are up 5.6 percent so far this quarter.
Whole Foods also lowered its profit forecast for 2014 to a range of $1.58 to $1.65 per shares from $1.65 to $1.69, and said that, under its best case scenario, its gross margins would be unchanged for the rest of the year.
Net income rose to $158 million, or 42 cents per share, from $146 million, or 39 cents last year. Overall sales rose 9.9 percent to $4.24 billion. Analysts were expecting $4.29 billion, according to Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S. (Reporting by Phil Wahba in New York and Lisa Baertlein in Los Angeles; Editing by Nick Zieminski and Andre Grenon)
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