Best Buy Profit Plunges 91% Amid CEO Turnover and Buyout Talks

Best Buy—which on Monday named a new CEO and whose founder is pursuing a private takeover—reported a steep decline in second-quarter earnings and suspended its full-year forecast.

Best Buy Company, Inc.—whose shares have tumbled recently on a barrage of news, including restructuring plans, an ongoing private takeover attempt, and the appointment of a new CEO—on Tuesday announced weaker-than-expected second-quarter earnings.

The Richfield-based company reported net earnings of $12 million, or 4 cents per share, for the quarter that ended August 4. Earnings are down 91 percent from last year’s second quarter, which ended on July 30. Revenue, meanwhile, fell 3 percent to $10.5 billion.

Excluding restructuring charges, Best Buy said that its earnings totaled $68 million, or 20 cents per share. The results fell significantly short of analysts’ expectations; analysts polled by Thomson Reuters had expected earnings of 31 cents per share on revenue of $10.63 billion.

In announcing its disappointing second-quarter results, Best Buy also said it has lowered its fiscal-year earnings outlook, although it did not provide a revised number. Rather, the company said that it is suspending its earnings guidance for the remainder of its fiscal year, citing “lowered expectations for industry-wide sales and the uncertainty associated with several key product launches” occurring in the second half of the year.

Best Buy’s earnings report came one day after the company announced that Hubert Joly, former chief executive of Minnetonka-based Carlson, will take over as CEO and president in early September. The company’s stock price slid on the news, and initial analyst reactions to Joly’s selection were mixed.

G. Mike Mikan, who will continue to serve as interim CEO until Joly takes over next month, said in a Tuesday conference call that Best Buy’s leadership team continues to examine its turnaround strategy, which includes reducing costs and physical square footage. Mikan told investors that Best Buy would not discuss its turnaround plans during the call, as it “would not be fair” to Joly.

“But rest assured, the work will be shared with Hubert as he transitions into the company,” Mikan said.

Meanwhile, the company’s founder and former chairman, Richard Schulze, continues to pursue a private takeover. Schulze in June made a preliminary offer to buy the company for $24 to $26 a share. Schulze and Best Buy issued back-and-forth public statements over the weekend after the company offered to provide financial information to Schulze—on the condition that he wait until 2013 to take an offer directly to shareholders if the board rejects his buyout proposal. Schulze rejected the offer, and talks appear to be stalled.

Best Buy’s second-quarter earnings were dragged down by restructuring costs and decreasing sales. Same-store sales—those at stores open at least 14 months and a key indicator of a retailer’s health—slid about 3 percent.

The weak same-store sales included a 1.6 percent drop at domestic locations, which Best Buy said was driven by declines in the gaming, digital imaging, and television segments. The decrease was partially offset by gains in tablets, mobile phones, e-readers, and appliances.

International same-store sales dropped 8.2 percent. Best Buy attributed the decline in part to slowed growth in consumer spending in China.

Shares of Best Buy’s stock dropped nearly 10 percent before opening Tuesday at $16.38. The price climbed back to $17.95 late Tuesday morning but remained below Monday’s closing price of $18.16.

The New York Times reported Tuesday that Best Buy’s plummeting stock price may give Schulze hope in his takeover attempt. Schulze has said that Best Buy’s board should accelerate discussions regarding his proposal before the company loses additional value.

Others have argued that Schulze’s proposal doesn’t seem financially feasible, because it would require too much debt and more equity capital than they believe he can raise, The New York Times reported.

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