Fastenal sales grow by 20 percent

Company also settles dispute with GSA for $6.25 million.

Fastenal announced that its fourth-quarter sales grew by 20.3 percent to $573.7 million, compared to $476.7 million in the same period last year.

For the year, the Winona, Minn.-based distributor's sales were $2.2 billion, a 17.3 percent increase from $1.9 billion in 2009. Earnings for the full year increased by 43.9 percent to $265.3 million, or $1.80 per share, compared to $184.3 million, or $1.24 per share, a year ago.

The company opened 127 new stores in 2010, compared to 69 new stores in 2009. There were 13,285 total employees as of Dec. 31, an increase of 10.3 percent from the 12,045 total employees at the end of 2009.

The company also announced separately that it has settled its dispute with the Department of Justice over a contract with the General Services Administration. Fastenal agreed to make a one-time payment of $6.25 million to settle the case, in which a GSA audit claimed that Fastenal overcharged the government.

"We continue to believe that we complied with our obligation under the GSA contract in all material respects. However, we felt a continuation of our dispute with the DOJ and GSA was not the best use of our resources," Fastenal said in a statement issued Jan. 13.