How Target Missed the Mark in Q4

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Target Corp. (NYSE: TGT) released its fiscal fourth-quarter financial results before the markets opened on Tuesday. The company said that it had $1.37 in earnings per share (EPS) on $22.77 billion in revenue, compared with consensus estimates from Thomson Reuters that called for $1.38 in EPS on revenue of $22.53 billion. The same period of last year reportedly had EPS of $1.45 and $20.69 billion in revenue.

During the quarter, comparable sales increased 3.6%. Also, comparable digital channel sales grew 29% and contributed 1.8 percentage points of comparable sales growth. Traffic grew 3.2%, reflecting healthy increases in both stores and digital channels.

The recent tax law resulted in $36 million of benefit due to a lower structural tax rate in January and a discrete $352 million net benefit from the remeasurement of net deferred tax liabilities.

In terms of guidance for the fiscal first quarter, the company expects to see EPS in the range of $1.25 to $1.45 and a low-single-digit increase in comparable sales. The consensus estimates are $1.40 in EPS on $16.51 billion in revenue for the quarter.

On the books, Target’s cash and cash equivalents totaled $2.64 billion at the end of the quarter, up from $2.51 billion in the same period last year.

Brian Cornell, board chair and chief executive of Target, commented:

Our fourth quarter results demonstrate the power of the significant investments we’ve made in our team and our business throughout 2017. Our team’s outstanding execution of Target’s strategic initiatives during the year delivered strong fourth quarter traffic growth in our stores and digital channels, which drove healthy comparable sales in every one of our five core merchandise categories. At our Financial Community Meeting later this morning, we will outline our plans to continue investing in our team and make 2018 a year of acceleration in the areas that set Target apart- our stores, exclusive brands, and rapidly-growing suite of fulfillment options. While we have a lot left to accomplish, our progress in 2017 gives us confidence that we are making the right long-term investments to best position Target for profitable growth in a rapidly changing consumer and retail environment.

Shares of Target closed Monday at $75.14, with a consensus analyst price target of $76.36 and a 52-week trading range of $48.56 to $78.70. Following the announcement, the stock was down 3% at $72.85 in early trading indications Tuesday.