) posted third quarter earnings per share (excluding items) of 16 cents. The company is hopeful it can achieve the low end of its fiscal 2003 net income guidance. ST Robinson Humphrey downgraded its investment rating on the shares to neutral from outperform.
Analyst Patrick McKeever says he has been cautionary on Dollar General. He says the third quarter was disappointing, showing significant operating margin deterioration; he doesn't see a catalyst. McKeever says the third-quarter numbers raise questions about management's ability to execute considering the strength of other dollar stores. Additionally, the analyst thinks thinks an ongoing SEC probe could be a distraction to management. He trimmed his EPS estimates for the fourth quarter from 33 to 32 cents, for fiscal 2003 (ending January) from 78 cents to 74 cents, and for fiscal 2004 from 90 cents to 85 cents.