MOORESVILLE, N.C. -- Lowe's Companies, Inc. reported net earnings of $11 million for the quarter ended January 29, 2016, which includes a non-cash impairment charge of $530 million related to the Company's decision to exit its joint venture in Australia. Excluding the impact of this charge, adjusted net earnings1 for the fourth quarter were $541 million, a 20.2 percent increase over the same period a year ago.
For the fiscal year ended January 29, 2016, net earnings were $2.5 billion and diluted earnings per share were $2.73, including the impairment charge. Excluding the impact of this charge, adjusted net earnings1 were $3.1 billion, an increase of 14.0 percent from the same period a year ago, and adjusted diluted earnings per share1 increased 21.4 percent to $3.29.
As previously announced, the Company provided notification to Woolworths Limited, its joint venture partner in Australia, of its intent to begin the process of exiting its investment in the joint venture, which operates Masters Home Improvement stores and Home Timber and Hardware Group's retail stores and wholesale distribution in Australia. Woolworth's owns two-thirds of the joint venture, and Lowe's owns one-third. The $530 million non-cash impairment charge, which includes the cumulative impact of the strengthening U.S. dollar over the life of the investment, was based on the Company's best estimate of the value of its portion of the joint venture, and is subject to possible adjustment based on completion of the valuation process.
The decision to exit the joint venture in Australia was made as part of the Company's ongoing analysis of its portfolio of businesses. The Company will continue to focus its resources on areas of the business where there is greater potential return on investment.
Sales for the fourth quarter increased 5.6 percent to $13.2 billion from $12.5 billion in the fourth quarter of 2014, and comparable sales increased 5.2 percent. For the fiscal year, sales were $59.1 billion, a 5.1 percent increase over the same period a year ago, and comparable sales increased 4.8 percent. Comparable sales for the U.S. home improvement business increased 5.5 percent for the fourth quarter and 5.1 percent for the fiscal year.
"I am pleased that we delivered another solid quarter, driving increased traffic through competitive offers and creating strong value for customers," commented Robert A. Niblock, Lowe's chairman, president and CEO. "We capitalized on increased demand for exterior products as a result of warmer weather, while at the same time helped customers tackle interior projects, allowing us to deliver positive comps in all product categories.
"I would like to thank our employees for the incredible contributions they make every day through their hard work and commitment to delivering outstanding customer service," Niblock added. "In 2016, we will continue to leverage the favorable macroeconomic backdrop for home improvement, providing customers with complete solutions for their home improvement projects."