Office Depot swung to Q1 earnings of US$41M from year-ago loss of US$15M as sales dipped 3% to US$2.9B, driven by strong sales in North America

BOCA RATON, Florida , May 1, 2012 (press release) – Office Depot, Inc. ODP -2.96% , a leading global provider of office supplies and services that helps customers save time, today announced results for the fiscal quarter ending March 31, 2012.

FIRST QUARTER RESULTS (1)

Total Company sales for the first quarter of 2012 were approximately $2.9 billion, down 3% compared to the first quarter of 2011.

The Company reported net earnings, after preferred stock dividends, of $41 million or $0.14 per diluted share in the first quarter of 2012, compared to a loss of $15 million or $0.05 per share in the first quarter of 2011.

-- First quarter 2012 results included approximately $23 million of charges primarily related to restructuring activities, lease accruals and actions to improve future operating performance, and approximately $12 million related to the extinguishment of debt in the quarter.

-- First quarter 2012 results also included a $68 million favorable pension settlement related to a 2003 European acquisition recognized as a credit to income and slightly offset by a $5 million expense related to this arrangement.

-- Excluding the charges, debt extinguishment costs and the favorable pension settlement, first quarter 2012 net earnings, after preferred stock dividends, would have been approximately $14 million or $0.05 per share.

-- First quarter 2011 results included charges totaling $8 million that, after tax, negatively impacted earnings by $0.05 per share. The charges were related to restructuring and integration activity costs, and actions to improve future operating performance.

"Our first quarter 2012 results showed continued year-over-year earnings improvement despite lower sales," said Neil Austrian, Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of Office Depot. "The North American Business Solutions Division delivered a strong performance again this quarter."

Total Company gross profit margin increased approximately 120 basis points in the first quarter of 2012 compared to the prior year period, with increases recognized in all three divisions.

Total Company operating expenses decreased by $54 million in the first quarter of 2012 compared to the prior year period. Total Company operating expenses in the first quarter of 2012, when adjusted for charges and credits but including an $18 million asset impairment charge, would have decreased by $6 million versus the prior year period.

Earnings, before interest and taxes (EBIT), adjusted for charges and credits, were $47 million in the first quarter of 2012, compared to $34 million in the prior year period. First quarter 2012 EBIT, adjusted for charges and credits, also includes the asset impairment charge of approximately $18 million.

The effective tax rate for the first quarter of 2012 was 18% compared to 164% for the same period in 2011. The effective tax rate for the first quarter of 2012 was impacted by the pension settlement that is being treated as a purchase price adjustment for tax purposes.

The Company ended the first quarter of 2012 with a use of free cash flow of $128 million, a slight increase from the prior year period. This use of free cash flow includes $58 million related to the pension funding that was viewed as a use of cash in operating activities but as a source of cash in investing activities.

(1) Includes non-GAAP information. First quarter 2011 and 2012 results include charges for restructuring, lease accruals and business process improvement activities while first quarter 2012 results also includes debt extinguishment costs and a favorable pension settlement. Additional information is provided in our Form 10-Q for the fiscal quarter ending March 31, 2012. Reconciliations from GAAP to non-GAAP financial measures can be found in this release, as well as in the Investor Relations section of our corporate web site, www.officedepot.com , under the category Financial Information.

FIRST QUARTER DIVISION RESULTS

North American Retail Division

The North American Retail Division reported first quarter 2012 sales of $1.2 billion, a decrease of 8% compared to the prior year. Because fiscal year 2011 was a 53 week year ending on December 31, first quarter 2012 sales benefited from having fewer selling days impacted by holidays compared to the first quarter of 2011. However, store closures throughout 2011, including the 10 remaining stores in Canada during the second quarter of 2011, negatively impacted total sales for the first quarter of 2012. After considering the holiday shift and store closures, it is estimated that the combined impact on first quarter 2012 sales would have been approximately neutral.

Same store sales in the first quarter of 2012 from the 1,096 stores that have been open for more than one year decreased 6%. The decline in comparable sales of computers and related products, contributed significantly to the Division's overall comparable sales decline. This decline reflects the Division's continued focus on improving the profitability of the business by taking a more strategic approach to the product assortment, pricing and promotion. Excluding sales of computers and their related products, same stores sales would have been flat in the first quarter 2012. The Company saw increasing sales in tablets and e-readers during the quarter. Customers switching from laptop computers to tablets contributed to lower sales but improved product margins. Furniture sales were lower in 2012 compared to the first quarter of 2011 reflecting promotional activity last year that was not repeated. Sales in Copy and Print Depot increased while paper, ink and toner sales decreased versus prior year. Average order value was slightly negative and customer transaction counts declined approximately 5% compared to the same period last year.

The North American Retail Division reported first quarter 2012 operating profit of approximately $44 million, compared to approximately $58 million in the same period of 2011. This decline was driven primarily by an asset impairment charge of approximately $18 million and the negative flow-through impact of lower sales, partially offset by the year-over-year gross margin improvement of approximately 140 basis points and lower payroll and advertising expense. The asset impairment charges followed a greater than expected decline in sales at certain of the Division's lower-performing stores.

At the end of the first quarter of 2012, Office Depot operated 1,123 stores in the U.S. and Puerto Rico. The Division opened one new store and closed nine during the first quarter of 2012.

North American Business Solutions Division

The North American Business Solutions Division reported first quarter 2012 sales of $828 million, a 3% increase compared to the prior year. After considering the holiday shift impact, it is estimated that first quarter 2012 sales would have been about flat compared to prior year.

First quarter 2012 sales in the direct channel increased 2%, compared to the same period in 2011, while sales in the contract channel increased 3%. Contract channel sales to both large and global accounts increased; however, sales to public sector customers declined, reflecting their continued budgetary pressures. Sales to small- to medium-sized contract customers were relatively flat versus prior year. Sales of supplies, including paper and ink and toner, were lower, partially offset by sales increases in Copy and Print, printers, seating and the cleaning and break room categories.

The North American Business Solutions Division reported first quarter 2012 operating profit of approximately $43 million, compared to $16 million in the same period of the prior year. This increase reflects approximately 170 basis points of higher gross margins from initiatives to better manage pricing and from the mix of product sales, partially offset by higher supply chain expenses and somewhat higher payroll costs to support the transition to the new inside sales organization.

International Division

The International Division reported first quarter 2012 sales of $825 million, a decrease of 2% in U.S. dollars and an increase of 1% in constant currency compared to the prior year. The International Division estimates that first quarter 2012 sales reflect approximately $30 million of benefit from the shift in holidays.

Contract channel sales in constant currency increased overall with growth in the U.K. and Germany being partially offset from weakness in sales in other European countries. First quarter 2012 sales in the direct channel were lower across the Division. This negative trend in direct sales will continue to be an area of focus for the Division. The retail channel sales increased in both Europe and Asia compared to the first quarter of 2011, with European retail benefiting from the acquisition in Sweden in the first quarter of 2011.

The International Division reported first quarter 2012 operating profit of approximately $15 million, compared to $27 million in the same period of 2011. Included in this measure of Division operating profit is approximately $18 million of charges in 2012. These charges primarily include an adjustment to closed facility accruals and severance costs for restructuring activities in several European locations. Restructuring charges in the first quarter of 2011 were approximately $6 million. After considering the charges in both periods, Division operating profit increased from operational improvements and lower costs. However, Division operating profit for the first quarter of 2012 included an estimated benefit from the flow through of the shift in holidays that will not recur.

The movement in exchange rates had a minimal impact on International Division operating profit in the first quarter of 2012 compared to the same period in 2011.

Other Matters

On March 15, 2012, the Company purchased $250 million aggregate principal amount of its outstanding 6.25% senior notes due 2013. The total consideration for each $1,000 note surrendered was $1,050, resulting in loss on extinguishment of debt of about $12 million. On March 14, 2012, the Company also issued $250 million of 9.75% senior secured notes due March 15, 2019.

At the end of the first quarter of 2012, the Company had $489 million in cash and cash equivalents on hand and availability under the Amended Credit Agreement of $704 million, for a total of $1.2 billion in available liquidity.

Additional information on the Company's first quarter results can be found in our Form 10-Q filed with the Securities and Exchange Commission on May 1, 2012. Additional information on the Company's first quarter results can also be found in the Investor Relations section of our corporate website, www.officedepot.com , under the category Financial Information.

Non-GAAP Reconciliation

A reconciliation of GAAP results to non-GAAP results excluding certain items is presented in this release and also may be found in the Investor Relations section of our corporate website, www.officedepot.com , under the category Financial Information.

Conference Call Information

Office Depot will hold a conference call for investors and analysts at 9:00 a.m. (Eastern Time) today. The conference call will be available to all investors via Web cast at http://investor.officedepot.com . Interested parties may contact Investor Relations at 561-438-0278 for further information.

About Office Depot

Office Depot, dedicated to helping customers save time and money, provides office supplies and services through 1,678 worldwide retail stores, a field sales force, top-rated catalogs and global e-commerce operations. Office Depot has annual sales of approximately $11.5 billion, and employs about 39,000 associates in 61 countries around the world.

Office Depot's common stock is listed on the New York Stock Exchange under the symbol ODP. Additional press information can be found at: http://mediarelations.officedepot.com and http://socialpress.officedepot.com/ .

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