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 Fred’s Reports Fourth Quarter and Full Fiscal Year 2015 Results
   Wednesday, March 23, 2016 7:47:00 AM ET

Fred’s, Inc. (FRED ) today reported financial results for the fourth quarter and year ended January 30, 2016.

-- Comparable store sales increased 1.7% for the fourth quarter and 1.5% for the full year, achieving Company guidance and marking the best sales performance since 2010.

-- Adjusted earnings per share totaled $0.07 in the fourth quarter and $0.09 for the year, compared with $0.02 in the fourth quarter and ($0.20) for the year in 2014.

-- Adjusted EBITDA for the year increased 46% to $53.2M over last year.

For the fourth quarter of 2015, Fred’s net loss totaled $3.9 million or ($0.11) per share compared with a net loss of $8.2 million or ($0.22) per share for the fourth quarter of last year. For the fourth quarter of 2015, Fred’s adjusted income, a non-GAAP financial measure (see reconciliation below), was $2.4 million or $0.07 per share versus $0.7 million or $0.02 per share for the fourth quarter of 2014.

Fred’s adjusted financial results for the fourth quarter of 2015 exclude the following non-operational items: charges totaling approximately $6.3 million after tax or ($0.18) per share for an abnormally large increase in the LIFO reserve, impairment charges for the closure of five stores, adjustments for taxes and licenses, professional fees and other non-recurring items. The loss in the prior-year quarter included costs to close stores and provisions for inventory reserves totaling approximately $8.9 million after tax or ($0.24) per share.

                                                                                            
(dollars in thousands, except per share amounts)                          Fiscal 2015                             Fiscal 2014                                Change
                                                                        Fourth Quarter                          Fourth Quarter
                                                                      -----------------                       ----------------                        --------------------
Revenue                                                                      $   554,577                           $   504,425                                10% Increase
Adjusted gross profit                                                        $   138,401                           $   136,110                                 2% Increase
Adjusted SG&A expense                                                        $   134,808                           $   136,845                                 1% Decrease
Adjusted EBITDA                                                              $    15,746                           $    12,857                                22% Increase
Adjusted diluted EPS                                                         $      0.07                           $      0.02                               250% Increase
                                                                                                                                                       
                                                                       Fiscal Year 2015                        Fiscal Year 2014                              Change
                                                                      -------------------                     -------------------                     --------------------
Revenue                                                                      $ 2,150,703                           $ 1,970,049                                 9% Increase
Adjusted gross profit                                                        $   551,606                           $   533,204                                 3% Increase
Adjusted SG&A expense                                                        $   546,276                           $   545,006                                Flat
Adjusted EBITDA                                                              $    53,244                           $    36,428                                46% Increase
Adjusted diluted EPS                                                         $      0.09                           $     (0.20 )                             145% Increase
                                                                                                                                                       
See discussion of reconciling items between GAAP and non-GAAP
financial measures above and on next page.
                                                                                                                                                       

For fiscal 2015, Fred’s net loss totaled $7.4 million or ($0.20) per share compared with a net loss of $28.9 million or ($0.80) per share for fiscal year 2014. Fred’s adjusted income for fiscal 2015, excluding the items discussed earlier as well as estimated claims against the Company related to a previously reported data security breach, was $3.4 million or $0.09 per share versus an adjusted loss of $7.3 million or ($0.20) per share for fiscal 2014.

Fred’s total sales for the fourth quarter of fiscal 2015 increased 10% to $554.6 million from $504.4 million for the fourth quarter last year. Excluding sales of $16.0 million from stores closed mainly in the fourth quarter of 2014, total sales increased 14% for the fourth quarter of 2015. Comparable store sales for the quarter increased 1.7% versus flat comparable store sales in the fourth quarter of last year. Fred’s total sales for fiscal 2015 increased 9% to $2.151 billion compared with $1.970 billion for fiscal 2014. Excluding sales of $71.7 million from stores closed mainly in 2014, total sales increased 13% for fiscal 2015. On a comparable store basis, fiscal 2015 sales increased 1.5% versus a decrease of 0.6% for fiscal 2014.

Commenting on the results, Jerry A. Shore, Chief Executive Officer, said, "Fred’s financial performance for the fourth quarter, from the top line through adjusted earnings, reflected increasing momentum of significant improvements that we have made throughout our company over the course of the past year. We were very pleased with the total sales increase, which was driven by the growth in specialty pharmacy, the success of our holiday seasonal programs, and the expanded product assortments throughout our stores. The team refocused merchandising for the holiday period, which was well received by our customers. With improved supply chain efficiency, merchandise was in the stores earlier to ensure that our customers knew that Fred’s was in the holiday business in 2015. An enhanced merchandising plan was communicated to the stores, which improved our operators’ ability to execute. All of this was supported by a stronger marketing effort."

Shore added, "Another area of improvement during the fourth quarter and year was increased leverage of selling, general and administrative expenses. In the fourth quarter, total expenses on an operating basis declined from last year’s level, while sales increased 10%. Our team has implemented strong cost controls in areas such as store occupancy costs, supply chain productivity, and pharmacy, where we reduced the cost to fill prescriptions.

"As we look forward to 2016, we project that adjusted EBITDA will grow in the range of 35% to 45% on top of the 46% growth that occurred in 2015," Shore continued. "This will be accomplished through continued strong sales growth, ongoing and increased traction from the many improvements made last year. There will also be new investments and initiatives in the business to further modernize the foundation of the Company - all combining to drive financial performance in 2016 and beyond."

In closing, Shore said, "I greatly appreciate the dedication of the Fred’s team in producing these strong results for 2015 and helping to build a solid infrastructure for the future. Throughout the Company, we are excited about the momentum we carry into 2016, and our team is committed to improving outcomes for our customers, together with a totally reimagined shopping experience, as we work to deliver strong shareholder returns next year and afterwards."

Fred’s gross profit for the fourth quarter of 2015 increased 7.0% to $132.9 million, including non-recurring items, from $124.2 million, including non-recurring items, in the prior-year period. Gross margin for the quarter decreased 60 basis points to 24.0% from 24.6% in the same quarter last year. On an adjusted basis, gross margin for the quarter changed to 25.0% in 2015 from 27.0% last year, primarily as a result of sales growth in the Company’s lower-margin specialty pharmacy business.

Gross profit for fiscal year 2015 increased 8.0% to $544.2 million, including previously mentioned non-recurring items, from an unadjusted gross margin of $503.8 million in the prior-year period. Gross margin for fiscal year 2015 decreased to 25.3% of sales compared with 25.6% in the prior-year period. On an adjusted basis, gross profit for fiscal year 2015 increased to $551.6 million compared with the prior year’s adjusted gross profit of $533.2 million, while gross margin rate deleveraged 150 basis points, again reflecting specialty pharmacy growth.

Selling, general and administrative expenses for the quarter, including depreciation and amortization, leveraged 280 basis points to 24.9% of sales from 27.7% of sales in the prior-year quarter. Adjusted expenses for the fourth quarter of 2015 decreased to 24.3% of sales from 27.1% of sales in the prior quarter. A significant improvement in expense rate is attributed to controlling occupancy costs, labor expense and specialty pharmacy operating expenses. In addition, specialty pharmacy growth continues to leverage year-over-year expenses.

In fiscal year 2015, selling, general and administrative expenses leveraged 220 basis points to 25.8% from 28.0% of sales in fiscal year 2014. Adjusted expenses for fiscal year 2015 leveraged 230 basis points to 25.4% of sales.

For the fourth quarter of 2015, operating loss, which is equivalent to earnings before interest and taxes, or EBIT, a non-GAAP financial measure, improved to $5.1 million or (0.9%) of sales compared with a loss of $15.7 million or (3.1%) of sales in the prior-year period. Adjusted operating income, also a non-GAAP financial measure, which takes into account the reconciling items mentioned earlier, increased to $3.6 million or 0.6% of sales from a loss of $0.7 million or (0.1%) of sales last year.

For fiscal year 2015, operating loss improved to $10.4 million or (0.5%) of sales compared with a loss of $48.4 million or (2.5%) of sales in the period-year period. Adjusted operating income improved to $5.3 million or 0.2% of sales from a loss of $11.8 million or (0.6%) of sales in fiscal year 2014.

For the fourth quarter of 2015, adjusted earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortization, or adjusted EBITDA, also a non-GAAP financial measure that further excludes depreciation and amortization, LIFO expense and stock-based compensation from EBIT, improved to $11.3 million or 2.0% of sales compared with a loss of $2.1 million or (0.4%) of sales, including provisions, in the year-earlier quarter. Excluding inventory reserves and non-recurring items, adjusted EBITDA improved by $2.9 million over the prior-period adjusted EBITDA of $12.9 million.

For fiscal year 2015, adjusted EBITDA increased to $45.1 million or 2.1% of sales compared with a loss of $0.2 million or less than (0.1%) of sales, including inventory reserves, in fiscal year 2014. Excluding inventory reserves and non-recurring items, adjusted EBITDA was $53.2 million, 46% higher than adjusted EBITDA for fiscal 2014.

During fiscal 2015, the Company opened a net of two full-service locations and opened a net of one Xpress pharmacy location. The Company also moved three Xpress locations into existing full-service locations. Fred’s also acquired two specialty pharmacy-only locations during fiscal year 2015.

The Company provides the following guidance for the first quarter of 2016 and the upcoming full fiscal year, which does not include an estimate of future data breach-related expenses:

-- Total sales for the first quarter of 2016 are expected to increase in the range of 8% to 12%.

-- Comparable store sales for the first quarter are expected to increase in the range of 1% to 3% compared with an increase of 0.8% in the first quarter last year.

-- Earnings per diluted share for the first quarter are forecasted to be in the range of flat to $0.03 compared with essentially flat earnings per share last year.

-- Adjusted EBITDA for the first quarter is forecasted to be in the range of $13 million to $16 million, compared with $11.6 million last year, an increase of 10% to 35%.

-- Based on this outlook, the Company expects total sales for the year to increase in the range of 5% to 9%.

-- Comparable store sales for the year are expected to increase in the range of 2% to 5% compared with an increase of 1.5% for fiscal 2015. The estimated contribution from specialty pharmacy sales growth to total Company comparable sales is approximately 100 to 200 basis points.

-- Earnings per diluted share for the year are forecasted to be in the range of $0.27 to $0.32 compared with adjusted earnings per diluted share of $0.09 for fiscal 2015.

-- Adjusted EBITDA for the year is forecasted to be in the range of $73 million to $78 million, an increase of 35% to 45% over adjusted EBITDA for fiscal 2015.

Fred’s, Inc. and subsidiaries operate 659 discount general merchandise stores and three specialty pharmacy-only locations in 15 states in the southeastern United States. Included in the store count are 18 franchised locations. Also, there are 372 full service pharmacy departments located within Fred’s stores, including five franchised locations. For more information about the Company, visit Fred’s website at www.fredsinc.com.

A public, listen-only simulcast and replay of Fred’s fourth quarter 2015 conference call may be accessed at the Company’s web site. The simulcast will begin at approximately 10:00 a.m. Eastern Time today; a replay of the call will be available beginning at approximately 1:00 p.m. Eastern Time and will run until April 1, 2016.

Comments in this news release that are not historical facts are forward-looking statements that involve risks and uncertainties that could cause actual results to differ materially from those projected in the forward-looking statements. A reader can identify forward-looking statements because they are not limited to historical facts or they use such words as "outlook," "guidance," "may," "should," "could," "believe," "anticipate," "plan," "expect," "estimate," "forecast," "goal," "intend," "committed," "continue," or "will likely result" and similar expressions that concern the Company’s strategy, plans, intentions or beliefs about future occurrences or results. These risks and uncertainties include, but are not limited to, those associated with the Company’s announced strategic plan, the ultimate terms of the reworked pharmacy distribution agreement, lease buyouts and the underlying assumptions and projections upon which they are based, as well as risks that intended results may not be achieved or may not occur as quickly as expected; the success of announced acquisition activities and future growth trends in businesses acquired; general economic trends; changes in consumer demand or purchase patterns; delays or interruptions in the flow of merchandise between the Company’s distribution centers and its stores or between the Company’s suppliers and same; a disruption in the Company’s data processing services; costs and delays in acquiring or developing new store sites; and the factors listed under "Risk Factors" in the Company’s most recent Annual Report on Form 10-K and any subsequent quarterly filings on Form 10-Q filed with the Securities and Exchange Commission. Forward-looking statements speak only as of the date made. Fred’s undertakes no obligation to release revisions to these forward-looking statements to reflect events or circumstances after the date hereof or to reflect the occurrence of unforeseen events, except as required to be reported under the rules and regulations of the Securities and Exchange Commission.

                                                                                   
                                                                                                   FRED’S, INC.
                                                                                          Unaudited Financial Highlights
                                                                                     (In thousands, except per share amounts)
                                                                                                                                                                                               
                                                             13 Weeks Ended                                              13 Weeks Ended                                                         Percent
                                                            January 30, 2016                                            January 31, 2015                                                        Change
                                                           ------------------                                          ------------------                                          --------------------------------
Net sales                                                      $   554,577                                                 $   504,425                                                   9.90 %
Operating loss                                                     ($5,105 )                                                  ($15,721 )                                                67.50 %
Net loss                                                           ($3,901 )                                                   ($8,154 )                                                52.20 %
Net loss per share, basic and diluted                               ($0.11 )                                                    ($0.22 )                                                50.00 %
Average shares outstanding:
   Basic                                                            36,837                                                      36,360
   Diluted                                                          36,837                                                      36,360
                                                                                                                                                                                    
                                                             52 Weeks Ended                                              52 Weeks Ended                                                         Percent
                                                            January 30, 2016                                            January 31, 2015                                                        Change
                                                           ------------------                                          ------------------                                          --------------------------------
Net sales                                                      $ 2,150,703                                                 $ 1,970,049                                                   9.20 %
Operating loss                                                    ($10,399 )                                                  ($48,412 )                                                78.50 %
Net loss                                                           ($7,371 )                                                  ($28,904 )                                                74.50 %
Net loss per share, basic and diluted                               ($0.20 )                                                    ($0.80 )                                                75.00 %
Average shares outstanding:
   Basic                                                            36,675                                                      36,313
   Diluted                                                          36,675                                                      36,313
                                                                                                                                                                                               
                                                                                                                                                                 
                                                                                                                              FRED’S, INC.
                                                                                                              Unaudited Fiscal 2015 Fourth Quarter Results
                                                                                                                (In thousands, except per share amounts)
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                     
                                                                                    13 Weeks Ended                                         % of                                          13 Weeks Ended                                                  % of
                                                                                   January 30, 2016                                        Total                                        January 31, 2015                                                 Total
                                                                  --------------------------------------------------                     ---------                     --------------------------------------------------                     ---------------------------
Net sales                                                                            $ 554,577                                           100.0 %                                          $ 504,425                                           100.0 %
Cost of goods sold                                                  421,698                         76.0 %                         380,264                         75.4 %
                                                                  -------------------- ------- --------------------                      ----- --                      -------------------- ------- --------------------                      ----- --------------------
Gross profit                                                                           132,879                                            24.0 %                                            124,161                                            24.6 %
Depreciation & amortization                                                             11,865                                             2.1 %                                             10,755                                             2.1 %
Selling, general and administrative expenses                        126,119                         22.8 %                         129,127                         25.6 %
                                                                  -------------------- ------- --------------------                      ----- --                      -------------------- ------- --------------------                      ----- --------------------
Operating loss                                                                          (5,105 )                                          (0.9 )%                                           (15,721 )                                          (3.1 )%
Interest expense, net                                                   368                          0.1 %                              99                          0.0 %
                                                                  -------------------- ------- --------------------                      ----- --                      -------------------- ------- --------------------                      ----- --------------------
Loss before income taxes                                                                (5,473 )                                          (1.0 )%                                           (15,820 )                                          (3.1 )%
Benefit for income taxes                                             (1,572 )                                          (0.3 )%                         (7,666 )                                          (1.5 )%
                                                                  -------------------- ------- --------------------                      ----- --                      -------------------- ------- --------------------                      ----- --------------------
Net loss                                                                             $  (3,901 )                                          (0.7 )%                                         $  (8,154 )                                          (1.6 )%
                                                                  ==================== ======= ====================                      ===== ==                      ==================== ======= ====================                      ===== ====================
Net loss per share, basic and diluted                                                $   (0.11 )                                                                                          $   (0.22 )
                                                                  ==================== ======= ====================                                                    ==================== ======= ====================
Weighted average shares outstanding:
   Basic                                                                                36,837                                                                                               36,360
   Diluted                                                                              36,837                                                                                               36,360
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                     
                                                                                                                                                                     
                                                                                                                        Unaudited Fiscal 2015 Results
                                                                                                                  (In thousands, except per share amounts)
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                         
                                                                                     52 Weeks Ended                                          % of                                           52 Weeks Ended                                                   % of
                                                                                    January 30, 2016                                         Total                                         January 31, 2015                                                  Total
                                                                  ----------------------------------------------------                     ---------                     ----------------------------------------------------                     ---------------------------
Net sales                                                                            $ 2,150,703                                           100.0 %                                          $ 1,970,049                                           100.0 %
Cost of goods sold                                                  1,606,553                         74.7 %                         1,466,256                         74.4 %
                                                                  -------------------- --------- --------------------                      ----- --                      -------------------- --------- --------------------                      ----- --------------------
Gross profit                                                                             544,150                                            25.3 %                                              503,793                                            25.6 %
Depreciation & amortization                                                               45,652                                             2.1 %                                               41,063                                             2.1 %
Selling, general and administrative expenses                          508,897                         23.7 %                           511,142                         26.0 %
                                                                  -------------------- --------- --------------------                      ----- --                      -------------------- --------- --------------------                      ----- --------------------
Operating loss                                                                           (10,399 )                                          (0.5 )%                                             (48,412 )                                          (2.5 )%
Interest expense, net                                                   1,431                          0.1 %                               504                          0.0 %
                                                                  -------------------- --------- --------------------                      ----- --                      -------------------- --------- --------------------                      ----- --------------------
Loss before income taxes                                                                 (11,830 )                                          (0.6 )%                                             (48,916 )                                          (2.5 )%
Benefit for income taxes                                               (4,459 )                                          (0.3 )%                          (20,012 )                                          (1.0 )%
                                                                  -------------------- --------- --------------------                      ----- --                      -------------------- --------- --------------------                      ----- --------------------
Net loss                                                                             $    (7,371 )                                          (0.3 )%                                         $   (28,904 )                                          (1.5 )%
                                                                  ==================== ========= ====================                      ===== ==                      ==================== ========= ====================                      ===== ====================
Net loss per share, basic and diluted                                                $     (0.20 )                                                                                          $     (0.80 )
                                                                  ==================== ========= ====================                                                    ==================== ========= ====================
Weighted average shares outstanding:
   Basic                                                                                  36,675                                                                                                 36,313
   Diluted                                                                                36,675                                                                                                 36,313
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                         
                                                                              
                                                                         FRED’S, INC.
                                                                    Unaudited Balance Sheet
                                                                        (In thousands)
                                                                                                                                           
                                                                            January 30,                                              January 31,
                                                                               2016                                                     2015
                                                                   -----------------------------                     ------------------------------------------
ASSETS:
Cash and cash equivalents                                                             $   5,917                                         $                6,440
Inventories                                                                             340,730                                                        315,678
Receivables                                                                              53,171                                                         41,370
Other non-trade receivables                                                              40,049                                                         43,487
Prepaid expenses and other current assets                             11,494                                      12,983
                                                                   -------------------- -------                      -------------------- --------------------
   Total current assets                                                                 451,361                                                        419,958
Property and equipment, net                                                             138,993                                                        143,985
Goodwill                                                                                 44,472                                                             87
Other intangible assets, net                                                             94,171                                                         79,542
Other non-current assets                                               1,515                                       2,903
                                                                   -------------------- -------                      -------------------- --------------------
   Total assets                                                                       $ 730,512                                         $              646,475
                                                                   ==================== =======                      ==================== ====================
                                                                                                                                           
LIABILITIES AND SHAREHOLDERS’ EQUITY:
Accounts payable                                                                      $ 184,657                                         $              143,250
Current portion of indebtedness                                                             621                                                          4,331
Accrued expenses and other                                            56,074                                      45,599
                                                                   -------------------- -------                      -------------------- --------------------
   Total current liabilities                                                            241,352                                                        193,180
                                                                                                                                           
Long-term portion of indebtedness                                                        52,527                                                          2,259
Deferred income taxes                                                                     9,724                                                         10,615
Other non-current liabilities                                         22,698                                      24,785
                                                                   -------------------- -------                      -------------------- --------------------
   Total liabilities                                                                    326,301                                                        230,839
Shareholders’ equity                                                 404,211                                     415,636
                                                                   -------------------- -------                      -------------------- --------------------
   Total liabilities and shareholders’ equity                                         $ 730,512                                         $              646,475
                                                                   ==================== =======                      ==================== ====================

http://cts.businesswire.com/ct/CT?id=bwnews&sty=20160323005758r1&sid=cmtx6&distro=nx&lang=en

View source version on businesswire.com: http://www.businesswire.com/news/home/20160323005758/en/

SOURCE: Fred’s, Inc.

Fred’s, Inc. 
Jerry A. Shore, 901-362-3733, ext. 2217 
Chief Executive Officer


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