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Costco’s payout to investors pays off in the second quarter

ISSAQUAH, Wash. — Costco’s second-quarter profit easily topped Wall Street estimates thanks in part to a tax bump from the payout of a special dividend last month.

The warehouse club operator earned $598 million, or $1.35 per share, for the period ended Feb. 15.

The quarter included a tax benefit of 13 cents per share and a tax charge of 3 cents per share.

Industry analysts were looking for earnings of $1.17 per share, according to a poll of analysts by Zacks Investment Research.

The Issaquah, Washington, company posted revenue of $27.45 billion in the period, just missing Wall Street forecasts. Eleven analysts surveyed by Zacks expected $27.57 billion.

Sales at stores open at least a year, a key gauge of a retailer’s health, rose 2 percent. Those sales climbed 4 percent in the U.S. and fell 2 percent internationally.

Stripping out the negative impact of lower gas prices and foreign exchange, sales at stores open at least a year increased 8 percent at home and abroad.

Costco Wholesale Corp. operates 671 warehouses, including 474 in the U.S. and Puerto Rico, 88 in Canada, 34 in Mexico, 26 in the U.K., 20 in Japan, 11 in Korea, 10 in Taiwan, seven in Australia and one in Spain.