Best Buy Co. (BBY), the nation's largest consumer electronics retailer, said Thursday it expects fourth-quarter earnings at the low end of its range of expectations or slightly below. Its shares fell 2.6 percent.

Best Buy also reported a 9 percent increase in fourth-quarter revenue and a rise of 2.8 percent in comparable store sales for the fourth quarter.

For the quarter ending Feb. 26, Best Buy said revenue increased to $9.2 billion, compared with $8.4 billion for the same period a year ago. The company credited the opening of 78 new stores in the past 12 months and the comparable store sales gain.

Based on revenue results for the quarter, Best Buy said it expects fourth-quarter earnings will be at the low end of, or slightly below, its range of $1.56 to $1.66 per share. The mean analyst estimate for the fourth quarter was $1.61 per share.

The company also said it expects earnings from continuing operations for fiscal 2005 to finish at the low end of, or slightly below, its range of $2.80 to $2.90 per share, excluding the impact of the resolution of tax matters and adjustments in accounting practices.

Shares of Best Buy dropped $1.42, or 2.6 percent, to $52.49 on the New York Stock Exchange (search).

Best Buy said increased sales at the Richfield-based company's 67 "customer-centricity segmented stores" drove the comparable store sales gain. Best Buy has converted those stores to focus on certain customer segments.

Consumer spending at Best Buy grew fastest during the quarter in such product categories as digital televisions, MP3 players (search), notebook computers, digital cameras, DVDs and appliances.

"Consumers perked up as we closed the fiscal year, and our solid revenue gain allowed us to continue growing our market share," said Brad Anderson, vice chairman and CEO of Best Buy.

Anderson added that the company was pleased with its comparable store sales gain for the fiscal year of 4.3 percent, which came on top of a 7.1 percent increase in the previous year.

For the 2005 fiscal year, Best Buy said total revenue rose 12 percent to $27.4 billion, up from $24.5 billion for fiscal 2004.

Best Buy expects to provide initial earnings guidance for the fiscal 2006 first quarter and year on March 30, when it reports its fourth-quarter earnings.