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Target data breach may affect future profits

Target continues to cope with the fallout of a data breach, which, as expected, hurt the company’s fourth-quarter results.

The company incurred $61 million in expenses related to the breach during the quarter, but was able to bring the total impact to $17 million after applying a $44 million insurance payment.

But the retailer added that it is not only unable to estimate future expenses related to the data breach but also warned that those costs may adversely affect operations results in the first quarter and full-year 2014 and future periods.

Expenses may include payments associated with potential claims by the payment card networks for alleged counterfeit fraud losses and non-ordinary course operating expenses (such as card re-issuance costs), REDcard fraud and card re-issuance expense, payments associated with civil litigation, governmental investigations and enforcement proceedings, expenses for legal, investigative and consulting fees and incremental expenses and capital investments for remediation activities.

“For more than 50 years Target has succeeded by focusing on our guests,” said chairman, president and CEO Gregg Steinhafel. “During the first half of the fourth quarter, our guest-focused holiday merchandising and marketing plans drove better-than-expected sales. However, results softened meaningfully following our December announcement of a data breach. As we plan for the new fiscal year, we will continue to work tirelessly to win back the confidence of our guests and deliver irresistible merchandise and offers, and we are encouraged that sales trends have improved in recent weeks.”

Net earnings dropped to $520 million from $961 million in the prior-year period. Sales decreased 6.6% to $20.9 billion from $22.4 billion last year, reflecting the impact of an additional accounting week in 2012 as well as a 2.5% decrease in comparable-store sales, partially offset by the contribution of new stores.

Target operates 1,917 stores: 1,793 in the United States and 124 in Canada.

 

 

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