September 19, 2012 / 12:30 PM / 5 years ago

UPDATE 1-AutoZone sales growth slows, shares down

* Fourth-quarter EPS $8.46 vs est $8.40

* Fourth-quarter sales $2.76 bln vs est $2.80 bln

* Fourth-quarter sales growth 5 pct vs 8 pct year-earlier

* Shares down 4 pct premarket

Sept 19 (Reuters) - AutoZone Inc’s quarterly sales slowed on the lingering effects of a warmer-than-usual winter that resulted in less damage to cars, reducing the need to replace auto parts.

Shares of the largest U.S. auto parts retail chain fell 4 percent in premarket trading.

AutoZone, which competes with Advance Auto Parts Inc and O‘Reilly Automotive Inc, said same store sales performance for the quarter was below its expectations.

Total sales rose 5 percent in the fourth quarter, compared with an 8 percent rise a year earlier.

The company, which operates in both retail (do-it-yourself) and commercial (do-it-for-me) auto parts markets, said gross margins rose to 51.8 percent from 51.2 percent a year earlier.

Net income rose to $323.7 million, or $8.46 per share, in the quarter ended Aug. 25, from $301.5 million, or $7.18 per share, a year earlier.

Analysts on average had expected earnings of $8.40 per share, excluding items, on revenue of $2.80 billion, according to Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S.

AutoZone’s shares were set to open 4 percent lower at $342 on Wednesday. They closed at $357.84 on the New York Stock Exchange on Tuesday.

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