Raised Dividend, Buybacks Not Enough for Macy’s Investors

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Macy’s Inc. (NYSE: M) reported first-quarter fiscal 2015 results before markets opened Wednesday. The department store giant posted quarterly diluted earnings per share (EPS) of $0.56 on revenues of $6.23 billion. In the same period a year ago, Macy’s reported EPS of $0.60 on revenues of $6.28 billion. First-quarter results also compare to the Thomson Reuters consensus estimates for EPS of $0.62 and $6.32 billion in revenue.

Comparable store sales for owned plus licensed stores fell 0.1% in the quarter, and they fell 0.7% in the company’s owned stores. Net sales fell 0.7% year-over-year.

Trying to limit the damage, Macy’s boosted its dividend from $0.3125 per share per quarter to $0.36. The higher dividend will be payable on July 1 to shareholders of record as of June 15.

Macy’s also increased its share buyback plan by $1.5 billion, bringing the total available for repurchases to $2.1 billion at the end of the first quarter. The company said that since reinstituting its share buyback plan in August 2011 it has bought back about 123.3 million shares at a cost of $5.7 billion.

The company continues to expect comparable sales growth on an owned plus licensed basis of approximately 2% in fiscal 2015, with comparable sales slightly lower on an owned basis. Total sales are expected to rise about 1% year-over-year, and Macy’s affirmed its EPS guidance of $4.70 to $4.80 a share for the fiscal year.

Consensus estimates call for second-quarter EPS of $0.89 on revenues of $6.31 billion. For the full year, analysts are looking for EPS of $4.75 on sales of $28.44 billion.

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The company’s CEO said:

We had expected our first quarter sales to grow at a rate lower than our guidance for the full year. We fell short because of a confluence of factors. Delayed merchandise shipments from the West Coast port slowdown and severe winter weather early in the quarter restrained business levels. Moreover, sales were negatively affected by lower levels of spending by international tourists visiting major U.S. cities with flagship Macy’s and Bloomingdale’s stores, including New York City, Chicago, Las Vegas and San Francisco.

Shares traded down about 2.6% in Wednesday’s premarket session, at $63.62 in a 52-week range of $54.84 to $69.98. Thomson Reuters had a consensus analyst price target of around $68.80 before the results were announced. The high price target was $82.00.