Staples' (SPLS) earnings surged 38 percent to $101 million, or 22 cents a share, vs. $70 million, or 16 cents, in the same period a year ago. Analysts surveyed by First Call expected the Westborough, Mass.-based company to earn 20 cents.
Staples also said its board has authorized the repurchase of up to $200 million of its common stock over the next year. The shares will be used for employee benefit, stock options and other corporate programs, the company said.
Comparable-store sales climbed 10 percent for the fourth quarter. Total sales rose 23 percent to $2.1 billion from the $1.7 billion earned a year prior, the company said.
"Our results were propelled by strong revenue growth across the company," said Staples' chief executive Thomas G. Stemberg in a statement.
Staples has taken on an aggressive expansion strategy over the past year, investing in businesses "that will drive its future growth," it said.
The company completed the purchase of Claricom Holdings Inc., a provider of telecommunications products and services, for about $140 million in cash Thursday.
The company also purchased Quill Corp., a $600 million direct marketer of office supplies to small businesses, in May l998.
"We are very bullish on Quill," Stemberg said. "Revenue and profits exceeded plan, and I expect those improvements will continue in l999 as well."
Quill will enter the European market during the first quarter 1999, the company said.
Written By Lisa J Ulmer, CBS MarketWatch