FINANCE

OfficeMax profit misses

BY Marianne Wilson

Naperville, Ill. — OfficeMax on Tuesday reported a lower-than-expected profit, for its first profit, hurt by declining technology sales. Prior to its earnings release, the company also announced a special dividend of $1.50 per share.

OfficeMax’s first-quarter profit available to shareholders rose to $56.3 million, from $4.9 million a year earlier. Sales fell 5.65% to $1.77 billion, while analysts expected $1.83 billion.

"We experienced a challenging first quarter, with a sales decline that reflected weak macroeconomic conditions and continued industry declines in technology sales," said Ravi Saligram, president and CEO of OfficeMax. "We will continue to drive gross margin improvement and have put in place a significant cost reduction plan that should improve results in the second half of the year."

OfficeMax is waiting for regulatory approval for its pending merger with Office Depot.

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FINANCE

PriceSmart sales up 10.7% in April; opens new club in Colombia

BY Marianne Wilson

San Diego — PriceSmart announced that for the month of April 2013 net sales increased 10.7% to $176.1 million, from $159.1 million in April a year earlier. For the eight months ended April 30, 2013, net sales increased 11.0% to $1,483.8 million.

For the four-week period ended April 28, same-store sales for the 29 warehouse clubs open at least 13 1/2 full months increased 9.6%, compared to the four-week period last year.

PriceSmart also announced that on May 3, 2013 it opened its third warehouse club in Colombia, in the city of Cali. The location brings to 31 the total number of warehouse clubs in operation by the company.

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Senate approves Internet sales tax; opposition looms in House

BY Marianne Wilson

Arlington, Va. — The U.S. Senate on late Monday approved the long-debated Internet sales tax proposal, known as the Marketplace Fairness Act, by a bipartisan vote of 69 to 27. The Obama administration has already endorsed the bill, but before it can become law it must be approved by the House, where Republicans are split on the bill.

The legislation would allow the 45 states (and the District of Columbia) that currently charge sales taxes to require large online retailers to collect tax on purchases made by their residents. While some House Republicans have expressed support for the measure, others view it another tax increase on consumers or express fear it would overburden Internet businesses in their states.

The Retail Industry Leaders Association (RILA) issued the following statement in response to the Senate vote to pass the legislation, which it described as aimed at giving states the power – if they so choose – to better enforce their sales tax laws and to level the playing field for Main Street merchants.

The legislation, sponsored by Senators Mike Enzi (R-WY) Richard Durbin (D-IL), Lamar Alexander (R-TN) and Heidi Heitkamp (D-ND), passed the Senate by more than a two to one margin.

“The Senate’s overwhelmingly bipartisan passage of this legislation foreshadows the end of the special treatment of big online businesses at the expense of retailers on Main Street,” said Bill Hughes, senior VP for government affairs. “After such a resounding vote in the Senate, we look forward to a constructive debate in the House to level the playing field for all retailers this year.”

“For too long the Main Street retailers that are an integral part of their communities have faced tax rules that put them at a disadvantage to their out of state, online-only competitors. The Senate has voted to ensure that the market, not government, determines winners and losers,” Hughes continued. “We are confident the House will reach the same conclusion."

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