Grainger Reports Record First Quarter Results

W.W. Grainger Inc.’s (NYSE: GWW) first quarter sales increased 5 percent to $2.4 billion compared to $2.3 billion for the first quarter of 2013. The company’s net earnings for the quarter increased 2 percent to $217 million versus $212 million in 2013 and its earnings per share of $3.07 increased 4 percent versus $2.94 in 2013.

“We are encouraged by the strong finish in March and our solid operating performance in a quarter that was marked by several disruptions from severe winter weather in January and February,” said Jim Ryan, chairman, president, and CEO, in a press release.

Grainger’s gross profit margin for the quarter decreased 0.1 percentage point versus the prior year to 45.1 percent, and was driven by lower gross margins from the newly acquired businesses. Company operating earnings of $354 million for the 2014 first quarter increased 3 percent versus the 2013 quarter.

Sales for Grainger’s U.S. segment increased 7 percent in the 2014 first quarter versus the prior year. First quarter 2014 sales for Acklands-Grainger decreased 10 percent in U.S. dollars and were down 2 percent in local currency. Sales for the company’s other businesses, which includes operations primarily in Asia, Europe and Latin America, increased 11 percent for the 2014 first quarter versus the prior year.

Grainger’s operating cash flow was $168 million in the 2014 first quarter versus $176 million in the 2013 first quarter. The company used the cash generated during the quarter and cash on hand to invest in the business and return cash to shareholders through share repurchase and dividends.

“We are particularly encouraged by the performance of our U.S. business, which was driven by continued market share gains with large customers,” said Ryan. “The performance of our online businesses in Japan and the United States also continues to be strong. We are facing near-term economic and foreign exchange headwinds in Canada and are unhappy with the current performance. However, we will continue to invest in the Canadian infrastructure as we are very optimistic about the business over the long term.”

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