Why Francesca's CEO Departure Could Mean Further Fallout

Francesca’s Holding Corp. (NASDAQ: FRAN) saw its shares tumble early on Tuesday after the company announced changes in management. Chairman, President and CEO Michael Barnes is resigning, effective immediately. As a result, Francesca’s lead director, Richard Kunes, is taking on the role of interim chairman, president and chief executive of the company.

However judging by the shift that shares are taking, investors do not appear to be convinced of this company’s new direction. An immediate CEO departure is generally never good and could potentially signal further fallout within the company, but this has yet to be seen. The company also gave out some information ahead of earnings that might seem bearish as well.

For some background: Kunes served as executive vice president and senior advisor to the CEO at Estée Lauder from August 2012 to June 2013. Prior to this, Kunes served for 12 years as executive vice president and chief financial officer at Estée Lauder, as well as holding several other financial management positions with the company, including corporate controller. He is currently a member of the board of directors and head of the Audit and Finance Committee of Tory Burch.

Kunes commented:

We wish Mike the best in his future endeavors. During his tenure, Mike built a strong leadership team of highly accomplished and talented executives. The Board has the utmost confidence in the management team to execute the business plans for fiscal year 2016 and the initial strategies of Vision 2020, the Company’s long range plan. In addition, our Board members have diverse and talented backgrounds and will provide ongoing support and guidance to the management team.

The company also mentioned in its press release that comparable sales for the first quarter were up 2% versus the same period last year and that earnings per share (EPS) totaled $0.17. Thomson Reuters consensus estimates call for $0.20 in EPS on $110.78 million in revenue.

So far in 2016 Francesca’s has underperformed the broad markets, with the stock down about 14%, prior to this move. Over the past 52 weeks, the stock is down nearly 9%.

Shares of Francesca’s closed Monday at $14.91, with a consensus analyst price target of $19.91 and a 52-week trading range of $10.05 to $19.90. Following the announcement, the stock was down about 20% at $11.95 in early trading indications Tuesday.

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