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MSC Industrial reports flat sales as strong dollar hurts customers

MSC Industrial Supply president and chief executive Erik

MSC Industrial Supply president and chief executive Erik Gershwind at company offices in Melville on March 27, 2013. Photo Credit: Johnny Milano

Melville-based MSC Industrial Direct Co. said its fiscal fourth-quarter sales were flat, as its manufacturing customers struggled with difficult economic conditions.

Sales at MSC, one of the world's largest distributors of industrial tools and supplies, edged up 0.1 percent to $727.4 million in the quarter that ended Aug. 29, from $726.6 million the year before, the company reported early Tuesday. Net income fell 6 percent to $59 million, from $62.8 million a year earlier. Earnings per share declined to 96 cents from $1.01.

Erik Gershwind, president and chief executive, noted that MSC customers were dealing with economic headwinds such as the effect of the strong U.S. dollar on foreign exchange rates.

Another executive noted in the earnings report that the company continued to reduce expenses to offset slower sales. And Gershwind said the company, which has a second headquarters in Davidson, North Carolina, continued to gain market share.

"We have historically made our greatest strides during economic slowdowns," Gershwind said in the report.

For the year, sales rose 4.4 percent to $2.91 billion, from $2.79 billion the year before. Net income dropped 2 percent to $231.3 million, from $236.1 million.

The company estimates revenue in its next quarter will fall to between $702 million and $714 million if current market conditions continue.

MSC's stock closed at $59.58 Tuesday, down 6 cents and near its 52-week low of $58.17. The stock's high in the past year was $83.03.

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