Office Depot 4th-Quarter Profit More Than Doubles

Office Depot Inc. (ODP), the No. 2 office supply retailer, said on Wednesday that quarterly profit more than doubled, as gains in North American sales offset weaker international sales.

It also said it bought a controlling interest in Best Office, a South Korean office supply company with annual sales of about $44 million, in an effort to boost its international business.

Fourth-quarter net income was $106.3 million, or 34 cents per share, up from $52.1 million, or 17 cents per share, a year ago.

The results included 9 cents per share in charges related to asset impairments, exit costs and other items, the company said.

Excluding items and an extra sales week in the fourth quarter, the company earned 38 cents per share.

Excluding items, analysts on average were expecting the Delray Beach, Florida-based company to earn 33 cents per share, according to Reuters Estimates.

Total sales rose about 7 percent to $3.72 billion and sales at stores open at least a year, or comparable store sales, rose 5 percent. The company said the strong comparable sales figure was due to heavy promotions and merchandising during the more consumer-driven holiday season.

"Given the strong impact of the holiday season ... we would caution people not to expect this level of performance going forward," the company said in a statement.

Sales at the company's North American retail division rose 15 percent, while sales at its North American business solutions division rose 11 percent.

Sales at the international division fell 8 percent as changes in currency exchange rates reduced U.S. dollar sales by about $70 million. In local currencies, international sales fell 1 percent.

"We remain optimistic on the long-term potential of our international business, but cautious regarding expectations of immediate marked improvements ... based on modest changes in broad economic conditions in Europe," Office Depot Chief Executive Steve Odland said in a statement.

Office Depot also said its board of directors authorized the repurchase of an additional $500 million in shares of its common stock.

During the fourth quarter, the company opened 41 new stores and closed one store, making the total at the end of the quarter 1,047 stores.

Office Depot shares rose 57 cents, or 1.7 percent, to close at $33.94 on the New York Stock Exchange.