* Q4 EPS of $0.25 misses Wall Street est by a penny * Q4 sales rise 14 pct, top estimates * Sees FY11 EPS $1.35-$1.45 vs est $1.32
* Sees FY11 sales growth of 40-45 pct * Shares rise 9 pct
(Recasts; adds call details, analysts' comments, share movement)
By Viraj Nair
BANGALORE, May 27 (Reuters) - Hhgregg Inc HGG.N forecast a strong year ahead as a prolonged drop in television prices begin to stabilize and the appliance retailer expands its store count to boost sales, sending its shares up 9 percent.
Hhgregg, which posted fourth-quarter profit that narrowly missed Wall Street estimates as gross margins shrank, said pressure on television average selling price was lessening, as new technology begins to enter the market.
"The industry is really pretty robust right now in new products, new technology. There's still some products coming," a company official said on a call with analysts.
Average selling prices for televisions have been falling as cash-strapped consumers scaled back spending on discretionary items. [ID:nSGE6120LK]
"One of the big positive's is that we are beginning to see less price compression in the TV category and frankly not all the 3D TV models have even been rolled out yet," Hudson Square Research analyst Scott Tilghman told Reuters.
Fourth-quarter same-store sales in the video category, which represented just over half of the retailer's total sales, declined 12 percent.
However, net sales rose 14 percent to $417.3 million, topping analysts' estimates of $408.7 million.
Net sales were driven by a 3.7 percent rise in comparable store sales for appliances, which accounts for 33 percent of the company's total sales.
Many U.S. consumers have upgraded appliances to benefit from a federal stimulus for energy-efficient goods.
Analyst Tilghman, who has a "buy" rating on the stock, views the improving trend in appliance sales as another positive for fiscal 2011 and also expects sales of Hhgregg's other category, which includes mattresses, to pick up this year.
The company, which forecast a 40 to 45 percent growth in sales for the year, sees the sales momentum extending to the first-quarter in both video and appliances, a company official said.
For the fiscal year 2011, Hhgregg projected earnings of $1.35 to $1.45, higher than analysts' estimates of $1.32, according to Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S.
While fourth-quarter gross margin shrank 117 basis points to 30.5 percent, some of the upside in fiscal 2011 is probably gross margin driven, with a sales-mix benefit from a shift to higher-margin appliances, analyst Tilghman said.
The retailer, which opened 26 stores in the current quarter, expects to open another 14 to 19 stores by mid November.
It has been actively expanding in the United States to take advantage of the exit of former rival Circuit City CCTYQ.PK and gain share from larger rivals like Best Buy Co (BBY.N) and Sears Holdings (SHLD.O).
Hhgregg started out as a small storefront in 1955 and currently operates 157 stores across 15 States mostly in southern America.
For related alerts, please double click [ID:nASA00ENG]
Shares of the Indianapolis-based retailer shares were up 6 percent at $28.25 Thursday morning. They touched a high of $28.95 earlier in the session. (Reporting by Viraj Nair in Bangalore; Editing by Gopakumar Warrier)