Retail

Target Dumps Canadian Stores, Finally

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Source: Wikimedia Commons
The only surprising thing about Target Corp.’s (NYSE: TGT) announcement Thursday morning that it will close its Canadian stores is that it took the company so long to make the decision. To be fair, new CEO Brian Cornell has been on the job less than six months, but Target has flailed around north of the border since announcing the expansion into Canada in 2011.

Target was included by analysts at Cowen in its list of the most unloved (by Wall Street) stocks, but even Cowen didn’t figure on Target giving up on Canada.

In the press release Cornell said:

After a thorough review of our Canadian performance and careful consideration of the implications of all options, we were unable to find a realistic scenario that would get Target Canada to profitability until at least 2021. Personally, this was a very difficult decision, but it was the right decision for our company. With the full support of Target Corporation’s Board of Directors, we have determined that it is in the best interest of our business and our shareholders to exit the Canadian market and focus on driving growth and building further momentum in our U.S. business.

About the only quibble we’d have with that statement is calling it “a very difficult decision.” Target currently operates 133 stores in Canada and the company’s Canadian subsidiary, Target Canada Co., has filed for protection under the Canadian Companies’ Creditors Arrangement Act. The company is seeking a debtor-in-possession credit facility of $125 million to finance operations through the liquidation and wind-down process.

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Target Canada is also seeking court permission to establish a $59 million employee trust that would pay most Canadian employees who would not be kept on to help with the closures for a minimum of 16 weeks. Both wages and benefits would be included in the payments.

Target Canada employs about 17,600 people. A back of the envelope calculation works out to about $840 a month per employee for four months, or about $5.23 an hour for a full-time employee.

Here is better and worse news for Target shareholders:

Target Corporation expects to report approximately $5.4 billion of pre-tax losses on discontinued operations in the fourth quarter of 2014, driven primarily by the write-down of the Corporation’s investment in Target Canada, along with costs associated with exit or disposal activities and quarter-to-date Canadian Segment operating losses prior to today’s filing. Target Corporation expects to report approximately $275 million of pre-tax losses on discontinued operations in fiscal 2015.

The short-term pain, however, is nothing compared to the long-term gain. According to Target, the closure will increase 2015 EPS and increase cash flow beginning in 2016. Shareholders appeared to agree, with the stock up about 3.6% to open Thursday at $77.30. The stock’s 52-week range is $54.66 to $77.75.

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