Why Signet Just Cannot Please Investors or Wall Street

March 14, 2018 by Jon C. Ogg

If any shareholders were hoping that Signet Jewelers Ltd. (NYSE: SIG) was about to mend its recent troubles, then they will feel some extra disappointment on the heels of earnings, guidance and a restructuring.

Signet released its latest results on Wednesday morning, and the adjusted earnings of $4.28 per share beat the Thomson Reuters poll of $4.25 per share. Its total sales rose 1% to $2.29 billion, and that beat expectations for $2.24 billion. Unfortunately, that 1% gain was driven by an extra week in the cycle and an acquisition. To prove the point: Signet said that its same-store sales were down a sharp 5.2%, versus a consensus of a 5.1% drop.

The company’s gross margins were down 70 basis points, in part due to the acquisition of R2Net. Still, the level of sales is down handily in key brands. Kay same-store sales were down 11.0%, and Jared’s same-store sales were down 6.4%. Sterling Jewelers had an 8.6% drop in its same-store sales, with Zale sales down 4.4%.

One thing to consider is the execution issues related to the first phase of its credit outsourcing. Signet is losing some sales to online commerce, as well as to department stores and specialty service boutiques.

Signet’s guidance may look like more of the same. With same-store sales called to drop in the low- to mid-single-digit percentages, its total annual sales ahead are projected to be $5.9 billion to $6.1 billion and adjusted earnings are called to be in a range of $3.75 to $4.25 per share. Thomson Reuters was looking for $6.04 in earnings per share

Signet also had a restructuring plan that will seek an additional 200 store closures, and that will keep 2019 as a transition year. The company is seeking operational improvements next year. Interestingly enough, those store closures are expected to occur after the coming holiday shopping season. It also plans to open 35 to 40 new stores in the current fiscal year. Signet had more than 3,550 stores under its various brand names at the end of its last quarter.

The company is targeting $85 million to $100 million in net costs, with those savings being back-end loaded. Its pretax cost cut charges will be $125 million to $135 million as a result of the store closures. The net cost savings are targeting $200 million to $225 million over three years.

Signet did try to include some good news with a dividend hike with a new payout of $0.37. On an annualized basis that would take the dividend to $1.48 per year, up from $1.24 currently.

Wall Street likes for companies to grow rather than contract. That may no longer be a fair assumption in retail now that so many areas are struggling.

Signet’s prior 52-week trading range was $46.09 to $77.94. A drop of more than 17% to $39.14 now blows that prior range out of the water. This is not just a 52-week low — it appears to be a more than five year low.

Signet’s prior consensus analyst target price was last seen at $56.64, but that should be drifting lower after such a large drop.