How Target Earnings, Lower Guidance Disappointed Investors

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Target Corp. (NYSE: TGT) reported second-quarter fiscal 2016 results before markets opened Wednesday. The big-box retailer posted adjusted earnings per share (EPS) of $1.23 and $16.17 billion in revenues. In the same period a year ago, the big box retailer reported EPS of $1.12 on revenue of $17.4 billion. Second-quarter results also compare to the Thomson Reuters consensus estimates for EPS of $1.12 and $16.18 billion in revenue.

On a GAAP basis, Target’s diluted EPS for the quarter totaled $1.07, which excludes $161 million of pre-tax early debt retirement losses.

The company lowered its guidance for the second half of 2016, estimating same-store sales in a range of −2% to flat in both the third and fourth quarters. For the third quarter the company now estimates both GAAP and adjusted EPS in a range of $0.75 to $0.95.

For the full year, GAAP EPS is now forecast at $4.36 to $4.76, down from a prior range of $4.76 to $4.96. Adjusted EPS for the year is now expected to fall in the range of $4.80 to $5.20, compared with a prior range of $5.20 to $5.40. The difference, according to the company, reflects early debt retirement losses already reported.

Analysts were expecting third-quarter EPS of $0.96 and revenues of $16.7 billion. For the full year, consensus estimates called for EPS of $5.13 on revenues of $70.46 billion.

Brian Cornell, Target’s CEO, said:

While we recognize there are opportunities in the business, and are addressing the challenges we are facing in a difficult retail environment, we are pleased that our team delivered second quarter profitability above our expectations. … Although we are planning for a challenging environment in the back half of the year, we believe we have the right strategy to restore traffic and sales growth over time.

Same-store sales fell 1.1% year over year for the quarter and were flat in the first half of 2016. Transactions were down 2.2%, although the average transaction amount rose by 1.1%. Sales in the brick-and-mortar stores accounted for 96.7% of total sales and digital sales accounted for 3.3%. Digital sales were up 0.5% year over year, while store sales were down 1.6%.

Target said it returned $1.68 billion to shareholders in the second quarter, $1.35 billion in share buybacks and $330 million in dividends.

Lower sales and very slow growth in online sales are not encouraging. Although Target says the lowered guidance reflects charges already taken, investors are taking a slightly dimmer view of the cuts to guidance.

Shares traded down nearly 5% in Wednesday’s premarket at $71.50, in a 52-week range of $65.50 to $84.62. Thomson Reuters had a consensus 12-month price target of $77.97 before the results were announced.

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