What Investors Are Seeing in JC Penney Q3 Results

J.C. Penney Co. Inc. (NYSE: JCP) reported third-quarter 2019 results before markets opened Friday. The struggling retailer reported an adjusted net loss per share of $0.30 and $2.38 billion in revenues. In the same period a year ago, J.C. Penney reported a net loss per share of $0.52 on revenue of $2.65 billion. Third-quarter results also compare to consensus estimates for a net loss per share of $0.55 and $2.51 billion in revenue.

J.C. Penney’s shares have jumped 18% in Friday’s premarket trading and as of Thursday’s close were trading more than 80% higher than on the day three months ago when J.C. Penney announced its second-quarter results. The thing is, there’s not a lot of difference between the two quarters.

Same-store sales fell 9.3% year over year in the third quarter (worse than the 9% drop in the second quarter). and when adjusted to eliminate sales of major appliances and furniture, same-store sales fell 6.6% (worse than the 6% drop in the second quarter).

Free cash flow was a negative $518 million, with operating cash flow at a negative $306 million. Free cash flow last year was negative $500 million, with an operating cash flow loss of $311. J.C. Penney spent $95 million less this year on capital spending but sold only $14 million in operating assets compared to asset sales of $132 million last year and capital spending of $321 million.

CEO Jill Soltau commented:

The past quarter was an exciting and energizing time at JCPenney as we made significant progress on our efforts to return JCPenney to sustainable, profitable growth. We are beginning to see results – both in our numbers and how we operate as a business – from the early implementation of our Plan for Renewal, which is focused on driving traffic, offering compelling merchandise, providing an engaging experience, fueling growth, and building a results-minded culture. Going forward, I am confident that delivering our strategy, coupled with our ongoing discipline and commitment to improving the foundational elements of our business, will return JCPenney to its rightful place in the retail industry.

The company’s forecast for adjusted EBITDA for the 2019 fiscal quarter was raised from a range of $440 million to $475 million to “exceed $475 million.” Adjusted EBITDA for the quarter totaled $106 million, and for the first three quarters of the year totals $340 million. Adjusted EBITDA in the third quarter of last year totaled $46 million and $302 million for the first three quarters of 2018.

The company still expects to see comparable sales declining in the range of 7.0% to 8.0% (excluding the impact of the exit from major appliances and in-store furniture categories the decline is forecast at 5.0% to 6.0%). Consensus estimates call for a net loss of $1.18 per share and $11.14 billion in revenue for the year. For the fourth quarter, analysts are looking for positive earnings per share of $0.02 and sales of $3.45 billion.

There just doesn’t appear to be anything in the third-quarter results to justify a double-digit share price gain. The loss was smaller than last year, inventory levels were down and the cost of goods sold fell by 350 basis points (and are forecast to dip by 150 to 200 basis points for the full year). The analyst forecast for J.C. Penney’s full-year loss is worse than the 2018’s loss of $0.94 and revenues are expected to drop by around $94 billion year over year. At this rate of improvement, J.C. Penney’s “rightful place in the retail industry” is inarguable.

Shares traded up about 14% at $1.27 in Friday’s premarket. The stock’s 52-week range is $0.53 to $1.92 and the 12-month consensus price target is $0.86.