Big Lots Inc. (BIG:US), the Columbus, Ohio- based discount retailer, jumped the most in about 22 months after raising its annual profit forecast. The company also said Chairman and Chief Executive Officer Steven Fishman will retire.
The shares climbed (BIG:US) 12 percent to $31.27 at the close in New York yesterday for the largest gain since Feb. 7, 2011. The shares had declined 26 percent this year through Dec. 3.
Adjusted profit from continuing operations for fiscal 2012 will be as much as $3.05 a share, up from a previous prediction of as much as $2.95 a share, Big Lots said in a statement. Analysts projected $2.80, the average of estimates (BIG:US) compiled by Bloomberg before the announcement.
The company said Fishman, 61, will step down, effective when a successor is named, as he seeks to prioritize time with his family. Fishman took over in July 2005. His departure follows the naming of a new chief financial officer, chief operating officer and chief merchandising officer in August, amid declining same-store sales this year.
The Wall Street Journal reported yesterday that the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission has launched an inquiry into a $10 million sale of stock by Fishman in March, citing a person familiar with the inquiry.
Fishman sold the stock on March 20 at a price of about $45, the Journal said. On April 23, the company told investors its sales had slowed, the newspaper said, and the following day the stock fell 24 percent to $34.71.
The probe is at an early stage, the Journal reported. Fishman’s trades were properly made at a time when they were allowed, Big Lots hasn’t been contacted by the SEC and Fishman’s stepping down is coincidental to any regulatory interest, the Journal said, citing the company.
On a conference call (BIG:US) with analysts yesterday, in response to a request for comment on the Journal’s report, Charles Haubiel, executive vice president and chief administrative officer, said the company understands and complies with the rules on stock trading by individuals.
Andrew Regrut, director of investor relations, didn’t return a voicemail left after regular business hours yesterday and didn’t immediately reply to an e-mail.
Sales at U.S. stores open at least 15 months fell 4.6 percent in the quarter ended Oct. 27, the company said. Big Lots reported a third-quarter loss of $6 million, or 10 cents a share, from continuing operations, compared with a profit of $4.2 million, or 6 cents, a year ago.
The company operated 1,482 stores at the end of the period.
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