Costco Wholesale Misses Earnings Estimates; Analysts Cut Target Price

Costco Wholesale Corporation, which operates a chain of membership-only big-box retail stores, reported a lower-than-expected profit in the second quarter, prompting several analysts to lower their one-year price targets.

The leading warehouse club reported net income for the quarter of $951 million, or $2.14 per diluted share, which includes $246 million pretax, or $0.41 per diluted share, in costs incurred primarily from COVID-19 premium wages. That was below the market consensus estimates of $2.45.

COST is positioned to comp the comp in the quarters ahead, and we expect will maintain a significant share. Compares getting challenging, but stronger traffic, re-opening driving fuel & other categories should support robust comps. Renewal returned to all-time high of 91.0% as shoppers are satisfied and loyal. We view curbside pickup pilot as a long-term positive,” said Oliver Chen, equity analyst at Cowen and Company.

Net sales for the quarter increased 14.7%, to $43.89 billion, from $38.26 billion last year. Net sales for the first 24 weeks increased 15.8%, to $86.23 billion, from $74.49 billion last year.

Costco Wholesale shares, which surged over 30% in 2020, traded about 3% lower at $311.08 on Friday.

“Our $332 per share valuation of wide-moat Costco should not change much after it announced second-quarter earnings. Its sales growth outpaced our target (12.9% adjusted comparable expansion across the company versus our 12.0% mark), but we expected cost leverage on the heightened revenue that did not materialize (25 basis points of operating margin degradation, to 3.0%, rather than our forecast for 25 basis points of improvement),” said Zain Akbari, equity analyst at Morningstar.

“As the double-digit sales growth is attributable to the pandemic and the margin shortfall to freight and fuel pressures we see as transitory, we continue to expect mid-single-digit percentage sales growth and 3%-4% operating margins over the next 10 years. We suggest investors await a greater margin of safety, as Costco faces an uncertain normalize action of spending habits once the pandemic ebbs.”

Costco Wholesale Stock Price Forecast

Eighteen analysts who offered stock ratings for Costco Wholesale in the last three months forecast the average price in 12 months of $379.44 with a high forecast of $420.00 and a low forecast of $325.00.

The average price target represents a 21.81% increase from the last price of $311.49. Of those 18 analysts, 12 rated “Buy”, six rated “Hold” while none rated “Sell”, according to Tipranks.

Morgan Stanley gave the base target price of $410 with a high of $520 under a bull scenario and $270 under the worst-case scenario. The firm gave an “Overweight” rating on the apparel retail company’s stock.

“Healthy underlying Q2 results, but tough compares are ahead. SG&A leverage (as COVID costs are lapped) should offset gross margin pressure in F’Q3/Q4. We like COST as a longer-term holding – especially as the multiple has come in – but stock may tread water until visibility on COVID laps improves,” said Simeon Gutman, equity analyst at Morgan Stanley.

Several other analysts have also updated their stock outlook. UBS cuts target price to $395 from $415. Oppenheimer cuts target price to $350 from $400. Stifel cuts target price to $370 from $395. BMO cuts target price to $410 from $430. Deutsche bank cuts target price to $344 from $347.

Moreover, Citigroup cuts price target to $360 from $380. Telsey Advisory Group cuts price target to $375 from $430. JP Morgan cuts target price to $369 from $411. D.A. Davidson cuts price target to $325 from $390. Jefferies cuts price target to $405 from $435.

Analyst Comments

COST’s results have consistently been among the best in Retail. Over the past decade, COST has delivered 6% comps and 10% EBIT growth on average. It is rare to find a business with COST’s solid comp/membership growth, while relative e-commerce insulation differentiates its value proposition from other retailers,” Morgan Stanley’s Gutman added.

“We are Overweight even as the stock trades at an elevated valuation given COST’s scarcity value, safety, and scale. In the near-term, we expect incremental sales uplifts from COVID-19 disruption, and earnings power looks stronger despite COVID-19 expenses,” said Morgan Stanley’s Greenberger added.”

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