JC Penney Posts Weak Q3 Sales, Cuts Sales Guidance, Investors Flee

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J.C. Penney Co. Inc. (NYSE: JCP) reported third-quarter 2016 results before markets opened Friday. The venerable retailer reported an adjusted diluted loss per share of $0.21 and $2.86 billion in revenues. In the same period a year ago, the retailer reported a net loss of $0.57 on revenue of $2.9 billion. Third-quarter results also compare to the Thomson Reuters consensus estimates for a net loss of $0.21 and $2.96 billion in revenue.

Same-store sales slipped 0.8% in the quarter. On a GAAP basis J.C. Penney lost $0.22 per share, a significant improvement from the year-ago loss of $0.38 per share.

Gross margins fell by 10 basis points to 37.2% in the third quarter.

J.C. Penney also updated its full-year guidance. The company chopped its same-store sales estimate from a gain of 3% to 4% to a new range of 1% to 2%. Gross margins are now forecast to be flat. SG&A spending is still expected to decline, and EBITDA is still forecast at $1 billion. The retailer¬†continues to expect adjusted EPS “to be positive” and free cash flow to “improve” compared with 2015.

The consensus estimates call for fourth-quarter earnings per share of $0.72 on revenue of $4.15 billion. Full-year estimates call for earnings per share of $0.14 on revenues of $12.83 billion.

The company’s CEO, Marvin Ellison, said:

We are excited about the initiatives we have in place to drive incremental growth during the Holiday Season with our increased appliance penetration, new Sephora locations, free same day pick up for online orders, a strong cadence of promotional events and our new lowest price guarantee. We are also thrilled about delivering a 200 basis point improvement in our private label credit card penetration in the third quarter, which led to our highest penetration in many years.

One last note: The company’s adjusted EBITDA for the first three-quarters of 2016 totaled $560 million, up $226 million year over year. Given the revised (lower) estimates for same-store sales and gross margins, J.C. Penney may have trouble meeting its $1 billion projection for EBITDA if sales don’t exceed the analysts’ estimate of $4.15 billion. Sales in the fourth quarter last year totaled $4 billion.

The stock closed up about 5.4% on Thursday at $8.81. In Friday’s premarket session, shares traded down about 8% at $8.10, in a 52-week range of $6.00 to $11.99. The 12-month consensus analyst price target was $11.88 before this morning’s announcement.