Shares of Framingham, Mass.-based Staples (NASDAQ:SPLS) led the market down in Wednesday trading, falling 1.6% in regular trading after reporting earnings that appeared to miss analyst estimates rather badly. Shares declined a further 1.2% after hours.
Sales of $6.11 billion in the fiscal third quarter of 2013 declined 4% year over year, and fell short of the $6.18 billion that analysts had anticipated. GAAP earnings of $0.34 per diluted share either missed analysts' estimated $0.42 or, under the most favorable interpretation, matched expectations, with Staples arguing that its non-GAAP earnings did in fact reach $0.42. And even viewed under that more favorable light, non-GAAP earnings declined 9% in comparison to Q3 2012.
Staples executives noted that the company closed 107 of its stores over the past year, hurting year-over-year comparisons. Yet CEO Ron Argent noted that the company needed to go through a "strategic reinvention" despite its impact on overall sales in order to deal with "weak demand for core office supplies" in the markets in which Staples operates.
Looking forward, Staples predicted that it will end this year with "low single-digits" declines in sales in comparison to full-year 2012, arriving at $23.9 billion in total sales by year-end. Staples added that it anticipates generating more than $900 million in positive free cash flow for the year -- $671 million of this was generated in Q3 alone.
Fool contributor Rich Smith has no position in any stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool owns shares of Staples. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.