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Lowe's Income Up 21 Pct, Meets Estimates

NEW YORK — Home-improvement retailer Lowe's Cos. Inc. (LOW.N) on Monday reported a 21 percent increase in its second-quarter net income, matching Wall Street estimates, boosted by the company's new-found strength in the home appliance sector.

Lowe's, the No. 2 U.S. home-improvement retailer behind Home Depot Inc. (HD.N), said net income in the second quarter rose to $279.6 million, or 73 cents a share, compared with $230.2 million, or 60 cents, in the same quarter a year ago.

Analysts had expected Lowe's to post a profit of 73 cents a share for the quarter, according to First Call/Thomson Financial, which tracks earnings estimates.

Earlier this summer, Lowe's snagged the No. 2 U.S. spot in the home appliances market when Circuit City Stores Inc. (CC.N) said it would exit the segment to focus on sales of electronics and home-office equipment. The No. 1 U.S. home appliance retailer is Sears Roebuck & Co. (S.N)

"Lowe's has got a very credible appliance offering,'' CIBC World Markets analyst Peter Benedict told Reuters Monday.

"They've done a fantastic job in the last few years ramping that effort up,'' Benedict said. "With Circuit City exiting the business, it creates a great opportunity for them to continue to build on those sales.''

"The same goes for Home Depot and even for Best Buy Co. Inc. (BBY.N),'' he added.

"Lowe's had over taken (Circuit City) before they even tried to get out,'' Benedict said. "The outlook for Lowe's continues to be very good. The Circuit City exit is clearly a long-term positive for Lowe's -- and for Home Depot.''

Prior year results include a one-time charge of 4 cents a share for costs related to the company's merger with Eagle Hardware and Garden Inc. in April 1999. Excluding the charge, both net earnings and diluted earnings per share increased 25 percent over the same period a year ago.

Second-quarter sales climbed 19 percent to $5.264 billion from $4.435 billion in the same quarter a year ago. Sales at stores open at least one year rose 3.7 percent.

"The reported comparable store sales performance reflects considerable disruption at the Eagle stores which are currently being re-merchandised to Lowe's format stores,'' Lowe's Chairman and Chief Executive Robert Tillman said in a statement.

"We continue to be pleased with the performance of the Lowe's retail stores throughout the rest of the country as their comparable sales performance exceeded six percent,'' Tillman added.

Lowe's, which also recently expanded its home appliance deal with leading U.S. home appliance manufacturer Whirlpool Corp (WHR.N), said with its continued emphasis on large and small appliance sales, as well as increased activity in the home-improvement market, it expects to increase business within the home appliance category in the coming years.

Wilkesboro, N.C.-based Lowe's said it opened 15 new stores and relocated 7 stores during the quarter. As of July 28, Lowe's operated 604 stores in 39 U.S. states.

Shares of the Wilkesboro, N.C.-based Lowe's on Friday rose



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