Ascena Retail Group Stumbles Over Q4 Earnings and Guidance

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Ascena Retail Group Inc. (NASDAQ: ASNA) reported its fiscal fourth-quarter financial results after the markets closed on Monday. This has been a tough fiscal year for Ascena, with significant store traffic headwinds and a competitive selling environment. Overall the stock is down over 17% year to date, while over the past weeks it is down nearly 40%.

For the quarter, the company said that it had $0.08 in earnings per share (EPS) on $1.81 billion in revenue, versus consensus estimates from Thomson Reuters that called for $0.16 in EPS on revenue on $1.77 billion. In the same period of last year, Ascena posted EPS of $0.06 and $1.17 billion in revenue.

In terms of the outlook for the coming fiscal year, Ascena expects to have EPS in the range of $0.60 to $0.65 and total company sales unchanged from this year, while comparable sales are expected to slip 1% to 2%. Consensus estimates call for $0.83 in EPS on $7.17 billion in revenue for fiscal 2017.

On the books, Ascena’s cash and cash equivalents totaled $372 million, with roughly $199 million being held outside the United States. At the end of the previous fiscal year, cash and cash equivalents totaled $241 million.

David Jaffe, president and CEO of Ascena, commented:

Aside from the challenging business trend we’ve seen, I’d like to highlight progress in four key areas of our business that I believe lay the foundation for stronger future performance. First, we were pleased by the Justice turnaround. The Justice team delivered full-year operating margin in the middle of the guidance range we provided last September. Second, our integration of ANN continues to progress well, and we remain ahead of plan with our synergy and cost savings workstreams. Third, the new ascena omni-channel platform went live at Justice in the fourth quarter, and the early reads on demand growth have significantly exceeded our expectations. And finally, we continue to make progress with our enterprise transformation work, and we are currently moving forward to address identified opportunities.

Shares of Ascena closed Monday up nearly 2% at $8.12, with a consensus analyst price target of $11.67 and a 52-week trading range of $6.33 to $14.76. Following the release of the earnings report, the stock was down about 25% at $6.13 in early trading indications Tuesday.