3 Earnings Reports That Caught My Attention Last Week

As fourth-quarter earnings reports are nearing an end, and with three-quarters of the year already in the books, I can't help but point out that the majority of reports up until now have been better than expected. With so many companies reporting during the weeks that comprise earnings season, it's easy for some earnings reports to fall through the cracks.

Each week this year, I've taken a look at three companies that could be worth further research after either beating or missing their profit expectations. Today, we'll take a gander at three more companies that reported earnings last week. They may have slid under your radar, but they deserve a look.

Company

Consensus EPS

Reported EPS

Surprise

Rite Aid

($0.03)

$0.07

333%

FedEx

$1.41

$1.39

(2%)

Navistar

($1.12)

($7.89)

(604%)

Source: Yahoo! Finance.


Rite Aid
Warning! Objects in the mirror may appear a lot closer than they actually are! Yes, Rite Aid did turn in its first quarterly profit in five years, but the drugstore chain is a long way from escaping the quicksand.

Rite Aid's most recent quarter received a nice boost from the spat between Express Scripts and Walgreen earlier this year, which only ended in mid-September. Between CVS Caremark and Rite Aid continuing to fill Express Scripts prescriptions and a newly introduced loyalty rewards program, Rite Aid cleaned up its aisles nicely. But, as I alluded to above, this looks like a temporary fix for a still struggling franchise.

Walgreen and Express Scripts are working together once again, leading me to believe that Rite Aid is going to struggle to retain the customers it gained from Walgreen. I think Rite Aid's fiscal 2013 same-store sales guidance of minus 0.3% to minus 0.9% speaks volumes about how abnormal this most recent quarter was! Rite Aid is still working with $5.8 billion in long-term debt and the introduction of generic medication is crippling its pharmacy margins. Make no mistake about it, Rite Aid is still in just as much trouble now as it was two weeks ago prior to this report.

FedEx
The headline number from FedEx might be a $0.02 earnings shortfall, but to me this was an earnings beat in every other sense.

For the quarter, FedEx recorded an $0.11 hit due to Superstorm Sandy -- a relatively rare event. Beyond the storm, FedEx noted that revenue for the quarter rose 5% to $11.1 billion despite the fact that its customers have been pushing shipments out longer and have been shipping by sea in some cases, and that the company has dealt with very weak demand in Europe.

One key aspect to FedEx being able to maintain its full-year forecast has to do with its ability to use its brand power to raise its prices. Twice, recently, FedEx has boosted its prices and the company appears on track for another record Christmas quarter according to management. Another factor that will soon be working in FedEx's favor will be fiscal cliff clarity. Once consumers and businesses know the resolution to their tax situations, I believe you'll see enterprise orders and shipping demand resume quickly. Outside of one-time events, FedEx's results seem right on par to me!

Navistar
There are quarterly losses, and then there's the monster loss that the restructuring Navistar leveled on investors last week.

Navistar, a manufacturer of diesel engines, has dealt with a myriad of issues this year, including diesel engine redesigns as well as weakened domestic and overseas demand. Its latest setback was an obscenely large $2 billion tax expense that, when added in with restructuring costs and a 24% decline in revenue, resulted in a $2.77 billion loss! Keep in mind that Navistar's market value is only $1.6 billion, so you'd be correct in assuming that activist shareholder Carl Icahn wasn't pleased and is still trying to effect change on the board.

Ironically enough, I actually found these results to be somewhat encouraging because it shows that Navistar may be turning the corner. For one thing, Navistar's cost-cutting plan is ahead of schedule. Clearly I'd rather the company be growing top-line earnings than backing its way into a profit, but baby steps are never a bad thing after a loss this big. Also, the simple need for more fuel-efficient engines as trucking companies look to become more fuel-efficient and lower their fuel costs should make Navistar an intriguing rebound candidate. This quarter may have been a wash, but keep your eyes on Navistar moving forward.

Foolish roundup
Sometimes an earnings beat or miss isn't as cut-and-dried as it appears. I've given my two cents on what's next for each of these companies -- now it's your turn to sound off. Share your thoughts in the comments section below and consider adding these stocks to your free and personalized Watchlist.

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The article 3 Earnings Reports That Caught My Attention Last Week originally appeared on Fool.com.

Fool contributor Sean Williams has no material interest in any companies mentioned in this article. You can follow him on CAPS under the screen name TMFUltraLong, track every pick he makes under the screen name TrackUltraLong, and check him out on Twitter, where he goes by the handle @TMFUltraLong. Motley Fool newsletter services have recommended buying shares of Express Scripts and FedEx, as well as creating a diagonal call position in FedEx. 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.

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