Francesca Shares Soar on Earnings Beat, Upgrade

Clothes on hangersFrancesca Holdings Corp. (NASDAQ: FRAN) reported third-quarter 2012 results before markets opened this morning. The fast-fashion retailer of women’s apparel reported adjusted diluted earnings per share (EPS) of $0.24 on revenues of $72 million. In the same period a year ago, Francesca reported EPS of $0.14 on revenue of $50 million. Today’s results also compare to the Thomson Reuters consensus estimates for EPS of $0.22 and $71 million in revenue.

The retailer reported that same-store sales rose 16.7%, compared with last year’s third quarter. Francesca has opened 76 new stores in the past 12 months as well.

The company’s CEO said:

We delivered another quarter of strong results, demonstrating the appeal of our business model of a differentiated merchandise strategy in a boutique environment. Our scalable, high margin merchandising model combined with productive new boutique economics provides a runway for boutique growth and gives us confidence in francesca’s long-term growth potential.

The company provided updated guidance for the fourth quarter and the full 2012 fiscal year. For the current quarter, Francesca forecasts diluted EPS of $0.27 to $0.28 on revenues of $82.5 million to $83.5 million, above EPS of $0.20 in the fourth quarter of 2011. The forecast assumes a mid-single digit increase in same-store sales and one new store opening. The consensus EPS estimate calls for a total of $0.28 on revenues of $83.3 million.

For the full fiscal year, Francesca expects to post EPS of $0.99 to $1.00 on revenues of $292.2 million to $293.2 million. The total excludes one-time charges of $600,000. The company projects a U.S. same-store sales increase in the low-double digits. The consensus estimate calls for EPS of $0.99 on revenues of $292.25 million.

Francesca’s fast-fashion model continues to boost its sales and profit, but was hit hard by the announced retirement of its CEO last August. Today’s results, though ahead of both profit and revenue estimates, are fine, but guidance is just in-line with current estimates. Believers in this company and its stock will bid it up today.

Count Jefferies Group Inc. (NYSE: JEF) among the believers. The firm raised its rating on Francesca to Buy and raised its target price from $35 to $38.

Shares are up 18.6% in premarket trading this morning, at $31.80, in a 52-week range of $15.96 to $37.09. Thomson Reuters had a consensus analyst price target of around $36.90 before today’s results were announced.

Paul Ausick

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