CHICAGO, Oct. 16, 2018 /PRNewswire/ -- Grainger (NYSE: GWW) today reported results for the third quarter ended September 30, 2018. Sales of $2.8 billion increased 7.4 percent versus $2.6 billion in the third quarter of 2017. Normalizing for foreign exchange and the impact of hurricanes, sales increased 8.2 percent versus the third quarter of 2017.
Reported earnings contained $139 million in non-cash impairment charges relating to the Cromwell business in the U.K., reflecting a slower growth trajectory and structural issues. These issues include prolonged Brexit uncertainty that impacted the market outlook and higher discount rates, which together account for a majority of the reduction in valuation.
Operating earnings for the quarter of $189 million were down 32 percent versus $278 million in the 2017 third quarter. On an adjusted basis, operating earnings for the quarter of $332 million were up 15 percent versus $287 million in the 2017 third quarter. Earnings per share of $1.82 were down 35 percent versus $2.79 in the 2017 third quarter. Adjusted earnings per share of $4.19 increased 44 percent versus $2.90 in the 2017 third quarter. The improvement in adjusted earnings per share was due primarily to higher sales, operating expense leverage and a lower tax rate.
"The third quarter represented another solid quarter of profitable growth across the business," said DG Macpherson, Chairman and Chief Executive Officer. "Even though we lapped the 2017 U.S. pricing changes during the quarter, we saw continued strong momentum and share gains from large and medium customers. Adjusted for the new revenue recognition standard, gross profit margin in the United States was up modestly over last year. The balance of the portfolio is performing as expected, particularly in Canada and with the single channel online businesses. We are confident in our ability to lead the industry with the best service and solutions for our customers."
Sales increased 7.4 percent in the 2018 third quarter versus the 2017 third quarter, driven by a 7 percentage point increase from volume and 1 percentage point increase in price, partially offset by a 1 percentage point decline from foreign exchange and the impact of hurricanes.
Gross profit margin for the quarter was 38.1 percent versus 38.6 percent in the 2017 third quarter. The lower gross profit margin reflects a 50 basis point decline from implementation of a new revenue recognition standard. When normalized for the new standard, gross profit margin for the 2018 third quarter was 38.6 percent, flat to the 2017 third quarter.
For the third quarter, the company's reported tax rate was 32.7 percent versus 31.7 percent in the 2017 third quarter. The increase was primarily due to the Cromwell impairment charges that lowered reported earnings and were not tax deductible, net of the benefit from U.S. tax reform. The adjusted tax rate was 20.0 percent in the 2018 third quarter versus 31.7 percent in the 2017 third quarter. The lower tax rate reflects the impact of U.S. tax reform and the tax benefit from stock-based compensation. For the fourth quarter, the company projects a reported and adjusted tax rate of 23 to 26 percent, which does not include any future tax benefit from stock-based compensation.
Operating cash flow for the quarter was $367 million versus $349 million in the 2017 third quarter, an increase of 5 percent compared to the same period last year, due to increased net earnings, partially offset by working capital investments to support growth. Free cash flow in the quarter was $334 million versus $329 million in the 2017 third quarter. The company used the cash generated during the quarter to invest in the business and return cash to shareholders through share repurchases and dividends. During the quarter, capital expenditures were $66 million. In the quarter, Grainger returned $159 million to shareholders through $77 million in dividends and $82 million to buy back 243,000 shares.
Grainger will conduct a live conference call and webcast at 11:00 a.m. Eastern Daylight Time on October 16, 2018, to discuss the third quarter. The webcast will be hosted by DG Macpherson and Tom Okray, Senior Vice President and Chief Financial Officer and can be accessed at www.grainger.com/investor . For those unable to participate in the live event, a webcast replay will be available for 90 days at www.grainger.com/investor .
W.W. Grainger, Inc., with 2017 sales of $10.4 billion, is North America's leading broad line supplier of maintenance, repair and operating products (MRO) , with operations also in Europe, Asia and Latin America.
Visit www.grainger.com/investor to view information about the company, including a supplement regarding 2018 third quarter results. The Grainger Investor Relations website also includes company information in our Fact Book and Corporate Social Responsibility report .
Safe Harbor Statement
All statements in this communication, other than those relating to historical facts, are "forward-looking statements." These forward-looking statements are not guarantees of future performance and are subject to a number of assumptions, risks and uncertainties, many of which are beyond our control, which could cause actual results to differ materially from such statements. These forward-looking statements include, but are not limited to, statements about future strategic plans and future financial and operating results. Important factors that could cause actual results to differ materially from expectations include, among others: higher product costs or other expenses; a major loss of customers; loss or disruption of source of supply; increased competitive pricing pressures; failure to develop or implement new technologies; the implementation, timing and success of our strategic pricing initiatives; the outcome of pending and future litigation or governmental or regulatory proceedings, including with respect to wage and hour, anti-bribery and corruption, environmental, advertising, privacy and cybersecurity matters; investigations, inquiries, audits and changes in laws and regulations; disruption of information technology or data security systems; general industry or market conditions; general global economic conditions; currency exchange rate fluctuations; market volatility; commodity price volatility; labor shortages; facilities disruptions or shutdowns; higher fuel costs or disruptions in transportation services; natural and other catastrophes; unanticipated weather conditions; loss of key members of management; our ability to operate, integrate and leverage acquired businesses; changes in credit ratings; changes in effective tax rates and other factors which can be found in our filings with the Securities and Exchange Commission, including our most recent periodic reports filed on Form 10-K and Form 10-Q, which are available on our Investor Relations website. Forward-looking statements are given only as of the date of this communication and we disclaim any obligation to update or revise any forward-looking statement, whether as a result of new information, future events or otherwise, except as required by law.
SUPPLEMENTAL INFORMATION - CONSOLIDATED STATEMENTS OF EARNINGS
RECONCILIATION OF GAAP TO NON-GAAP FINANCIAL MEASURES (Unaudited)
(In thousands of dollars, except for per share amounts)
The company supplemented the reporting of financial information determined under U.S. generally accepted accounting principles (GAAP) with certain non-GAAP financial measures, which the company refers to as "adjusted" measures, including adjusted net sales growth, adjusted gross profit, adjusted gross profit margin, adjusted operating earnings, adjusted operating margin, adjusted net earnings, adjusted diluted earnings per share and adjusted tax rate. Free cash flow is not defined under GAAP. The company defines free cash flow as net cash flow provided by operating activities less purchases of property, buildings and equipment plus proceeds from the sale of assets. The company believes free cash flow is meaningful to investors as a useful measure of performance and the company uses this measure as an indication of the strength of the company and its ability to generate cash. Adjusted measures exclude items that may not be indicative of core operating results. The company believes that these non-GAAP measures provide meaningful information to assist shareholders in understanding financial results and assessing prospects for future performance. Management believes adjusted net sales growth, adjusted gross profit, adjusted gross profit margin, adjusted operating earnings, adjusted operating margin, adjusted net earnings, adjusted diluted earnings per share and adjusted tax rate are important indicators of operations because they exclude items that may not be indicative of our core operating results, and provide a better baseline for analyzing trends in our underlying businesses. Because non-GAAP financial measures are not standardized, it may not be possible to compare these financial measures with other companies' non-GAAP financial measures having the same or similar names. These adjusted financial measures should not be considered in isolation or as a substitute for reported results. These non-GAAP financial measures reflect an additional way of viewing aspects of operations that, when viewed with GAAP results, provide a more complete understanding of the business. The company strongly encourages investors and shareholders to review company financial statements and publicly filed reports in their entirety and not to rely on any single financial measure.
The reconciliations provided below reconcile the non-GAAP financial measures adjusted net sales growth, adjusted gross profit, adjusted gross profit margin, adjusted operating earnings, adjusted operating margin, adjusted net earnings, adjusted diluted earnings per share and adjusted tax rate with GAAP financial measures:
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SOURCE W.W. Grainger, Inc.