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Costco 4Q profits rise, helped by pandemic shopping habits

Warehouse retail chain Costco Wholesale said its fourth-quarter profits rose slightly from a year ago, its profits weighed by wage premiums paid to employees during the pandemic.

In a quarter during which Costco saw a surge of online shopping, the company based in Issaquah, Washington, said it earned $951 million, or $2.14 per share. That's compared to a profit of $931 million, or $2.10 per share, in the same period a year earlier.

But the results were below analysts’ expectations, pushing the Costco's stock down about 2% in after-hours trading.

Shoppers walk into a Costco store, Wednesday, March 3, 2021, in Tacoma, Wash. Costco Wholesale Corp. reports earnings results, Thursday, March 4, 2021. (AP PhotoTed S. Warren)

The average estimate of 13 analysts surveyed by Zacks Investment Research was for earnings of $2.42 per share in the latest quarter.

Costco said the premium COVID-19 pay for its employees trimmed its profits by 41 cents per share.

Costco has been one retailer that has mostly benefited from the pandemic, as stay-at-home Americans stocked up on bulk goods. The company also is seeing a jump in online shopping, notable for the chain mostly known for its mammoth warehouse stores.

E-commerce revenues were up 75% from a year earlier in the quarter that ended Feb. 14.

The warehouse club operator posted total revenue of $44.77 billion in the period, exceeding Street forecasts. Six analysts surveyed by Zacks expected $44.5 billion.