Has Lululemon Lost All of Its Supporters?

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Lululemon Athletica Inc. (NASDAQ: LULU) is still in trouble after earnings. No one with any sanity was really expecting a good earnings report, but the problems of yesterday keep becoming the problems of tomorrow. Management is fighting, and customers are getting more and more choices elsewhere from competition.

24/7 Wall St. could not help but notice how many downgrades there were from Wall Street. While most firms had already downgraded their formal ratings, there were still some fresh ratings cuts this past week. There were also too many price targets cut to easily measure.

The problems go beyond just evaluating Lululemon rationally as though things were normal there. The company’s disarray makes valuation a guessing game. Lululemon shares hit a multiyear low of $36.26 on Friday, but managed to squeeze out a gain of almost 1% to close at $37.61. At this price we get the following valuations: 21 times current year earnings estimates and 18.2 times next year’s existing earnings. Does that sound cheap at all for a company in turmoil whose turnaround is not yet even laid out?

The recently announced stock buyback of $450 million did not keep shares from tanking from an already low $44.30 before earnings down to the current levels with a $37 handle. The new market cap is almost $5.5 billion, so this stock buyback may not be enough to offset the problems.

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These were the main analyst comments and downgrades we tracked on Friday:

  • Barclays slashed its target price to $45 from $70;
  • Canaccord Genuity, a long time bull, downgraded it to Hold from Buy and the price target was downgraded to $42 from $69;
  • J.P. Morgan downgraded it to Neutral from Overweight, with a $42 price target from $56;
  • Nomura Securities maintained a Buy rating but cut the target to $48 from $55;
  • RBC Capital markets maintained its Outperform rating, but trimmed the target to $52 from $56;
  • R.W. Baird downgraded it to Neutral from Outperform, with a $44 price target from $60;
  • and Wedbush downgraded it to Neutral from outperform and slashed the target top $42 from $64.

One thing to consider is that some market pundits are already talking about Lululemon perhaps now getting low enough to attract a buyout. Anything is possible of course, but you need to consider that a buyer cannot have any hope whatsoever of securing anything close to an at-the-money buyout now – too many shareholders would take forced losses.

Any would-be and potential new investor looking to get into the yoga-themed retail and apparel player might want to consider a few things. When drops of this magnitude are seen, they rarely get a snap-back rally like a do-over in short order. Lululemon’s management issues and public image will not be repaired overnight. Its valuation still is not exactly cheap.

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So those looking to get into the stock might want to consider only legging in gradually, perhaps over the course of weeks or months. Catching the true bottom will likely (and as usual when compared elsewhere) remain a guessing game.

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