JB Hi-Fi lifts payout on Christmas cheer

JB Hi-Fi's Christmas has proven music to investors' ears, with strong summer sales and online growth helping the electronics retailer shake sector-wide softness and post a record first-half profit.

The retailer's 6.55 per cent in crease in net profit to a new record $170.6 million comes as it again boosts its payout to shareholders, with the firm's sales figures for the six months to December 31 beating expectations.

JB Hi-Fi reported revenue just shy of $4 billion for the period - up 3.9 per cent on a year ago - with comparable sales growth at its major Australian store segment hitting 4.4 per cent.

The market had tipped total sales growth of 3.4 per cent.

Shareholders will receive a dividend of 99 cents per share, fully franked, up from 91 cents a year ago.

Chief executive Richard Murray on Monday singled out the company's performance in the lead up to - and during - the festive season, while announcing JB Hi-Fi had also made a strong start to January.

"We are pleased to deliver positive sales and strong earnings growth in the first half of FY20, with sales improving throughout the half and culminating in a strong Christmas quarter," Mr Murray said.

JB Hi-Fi's shares were trading $4.92, or 12.27 per cent, higher at $45.02 at 1520 AEDT, making the company the best performer in the ASX/200.

A number of local retailers have felt the heat over the past couple of years as household consumption sags amid ongoing wage stagnation.

But Mr Murray said he was pleased with his firm's sales momentum in Australia, even though it had noticed growth in low margin categories and a bias in customer purchasing towards key promotional periods.

January sales at JB Hi-Fi Australia grew by 6.5 per cent, more than double the 3.0 per cent recorded a year ago, while comparable sales growth of 6.0 per cent has easily trumped 1.5 per cent in January 2019.

JB Hi-Fi New Zealand has, however, had a softer run, with a 1.6 per cent decline in total sales during the first month of the year, and a 1.6 per cent decline in comparative sales.

JB Hi-Fi's sister business - whitegoods and electronics chain The Good Guys - recorded first-half comparable sales growth of 0.6 per cent for a gross profit of $237.6 million.

The segment had previously struggled to lift sales figures.

JB Hi-Fi said The Good Guys stores performed well in sales of communications products, which Mr Murray said was proof the two served different customers.

Total sales growth for The Good Guys in January was 1.4 per cent - down from 1.8 per cent a year ago - but comparable January sales growth has improved to 1.4 per cent, compared to 0.3 per cent last year.

In its earnings announcement on Monday, the JB Hi-Fi also moved to downplay the potential impacts of the coronavirus outbreak on the firm's supply chain.

Many electronics products are made in China, where businesses face labour and supply challenges from the disease - which has killed more than 900 people.

Mr Murray said he was comfortable with reports from suppliers and most manufacturers had a stockpile of components.

For example, JB Hi-Fi is soon to receive new model TVs from China.

"We haven't had any heads-up from the TV guys that there are issues," Mr Murray said.

Meanwhile, Greg Richards has announced he will retire as the company's chairman and non-executive director on June 30.

Board member Stephen Goddard will replace him as chairman.

JB HI-FI's HALF-YEAR FIGURES

* Net profit up 6.55pct to $170.6m

* Revenue up 3.9pct to $4bn

* Interim dividend 99 cents per share, up from 91 cents a year ago.

Austrlaian Associated PressBack to Breaking News

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