Another Bad Earnings Reaction for Hertz

It turns out that the giant shareholder hopes regarding Hertz Global Holdings Inc. (NYSE: HTZ) just might have to wait a bit longer. Hertz delivered a $237 million profit in its third quarter, but that was short of expectations. The car rental giant had earnings at $0.52 per share for the period, but adjusted earnings outside of gains, what Wall Street really cares about, were $0.49 per share. Revenue was also a bit disappointing at $2.98 billion.

Thomson Reuters had the consensus estimates pegged at $0.52 earnings per share (EPS) and $3.07 billion in revenues. That is also against $0.49 EPS and $3.12 billion in revenue for the same quarter a year ago. Hertz did mention that excluding an unfavorable foreign exchange impact of approximately $0.03 per share, its adjusted EPS would have increased by about $0.08 from a year ago and that revenues would have been roughly flat, excluding a negative foreign exchange impact.

For the longer-term investor view, Hertz noted that its cost savings initiative yielded about $75 million during the third quarter. That translates to about $150 million for the first nine months of 2015, and Hertz’s message is that the company remains on track to complete its previously stated targets of $200 million in annual cost savings in 2015 and $300 million annually for 2016.

Hertz repurchased roughly 14.8 million shares during the quarter for $262 million. The company affirmed full 2015 guidance of adjusted EBITDA of $1.45 billion to $1.55 billion, and it affirmed its Worldwide Hertz Equipment Rental segment for 2015 with adjusted EBITDA of $575 million and $625 million.

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The company’s U.S. Car Rental fleet efficiency rose to 83%, a gain of three points from a year ago. Hertz Global has successfully renewed its U.S. Car Rental fleet, while maintaining fleet cost slightly below 2014 levels through the first nine months of 2015. Through September 30, 2015, the company added approximately 335,000 2015 model-year vehicles to its fleet, which is roughly 50% more than the comparable number of 2014 model-year vehicles through the same period in 2014.

Hertz shares have not performed well in 2015. The stock was down 5% in the past month and down almost 25% year to date. Now we have a drop of about 11% Monday to $16.73, on top of already weak performance. Hertz has a 52-week range of $14.85 to $25.72, and its consensus analyst price target before adjusting for lower earnings was just above $24.00.

Investors are likely to consider the Hertz report unfinished business because the long-term guidance was put off until the company’s Investor Day on November 17, 2015. That is barely a week away. Hertz CEO John Tague said:

Our profit improvement in the third quarter is early evidence of the potential we see in our performance improvement plan. Our fleet efficiency, which measures our ability to match capacity with demand, rose to record levels. In addition, we successfully completed the integration of the Dollar Thrifty operations during a quarter in which we increased customer satisfaction across all of our rental car brands around the world. I want to thank our employees for helping to make this a successful quarter.

Meanwhile, we remained on track to achieve our cost reduction goals and made progress on strategic initiatives, including preparations to separate HERC as a stand-alone company and returning value to shareholders through the initial steps of our share repurchase program.

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