DETROIT (Reuters) - AutoZone Inc , the largest U.S. auto parts retailer, reported higher quarterly earnings Tuesday, topping Wall Street forecasts, on stronger sales to commercial customers, sending its shares up almost 7 percent in premarket trade.
Net income rose to $158.6 million, or $2.49 per share, in its fiscal third quarter ended May 3, from $151.6 million, or $2.17 per share, a year earlier.
Analysts on average had expected Memphis, Tennessee-based AutoZone to earn $2.44 per share, according to Reuters Estimates.
Net sales rose 3 percent to $1.5 billion, in line with analysts' forecasts. Sales at U.S. stores open at least one year, a key measure of retail performance known as same-store sales, slipped 0.3 percent.
AutoZone said sales to retail customers rose 1.5 percent, while sales to commercial customers gained 6.3 percent.
The retailer, which opened 32 new U.S. stores and replaced three others in the quarter, has been making a push to attract more commercial parts business to offset a slowdown in demand from individuals buying parts for do-it-yourself repairs and vehicle upgrades.
Through Monday, AutoZone shares were up less than 1 percent this year. The shares closed at $119.53 on the New York Stock Exchange on Monday but traded as high as $127.80 before the opening bell on Tuesday.
Billionaire investor Edward Lampert has increased his stake in AutoZone to just over 36 percent from near 31 percent, according to a regulatory filing in April.
Lampert has also been building his stake in AutoNation Inc , the largest U.S. auto dealership group. He holds just under 39 percent of AutoNation, according to a filing earlier this month.
(Reporting by Kevin Krolicki; additional reporting by Christopher Kaufman in New York; editing by John Wallace)