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J.C. Penney: What The Analysts Are Saying

J.C. Penney: What The Analysts Are Saying

J.C. Penney (NYSE: JCP) indicated on Tuesday that its comps were higher by 10.1 percent for November. This compares to August's decline of 9.8 percent, September's decline of 4.0 percent and October's gain of 0.9 percent.

Analysts at J.P. Morgan, (NYSE: JPM) Wells Fargo (NYSE: WFC) and Deutsche Bank AG (NYSE: DB) all issued commentary on the struggling retailer following the company's announcement. Analysts continue to debate if the company's “turnaround” story is intact, or simply a fantasy that will never play out.

J.P. Morgan: Stability restored but turnaround road remains steep

J.P. Morgan analyst Matthew Boss noted that the struggling retailer's same-store sales gain of 10.1 percent is its best comp in five years. Boss singled out three key findings:

1. Traffic was positive over both the Black Friday weekend as well as the company's November 11-16 promotion labeled “Biggest Sale of Them All.” 2. Brick & mortar comps improved around 1,000 bps according to the analysts calculations. 3. Outerwear, accessories, boots and home décor were standouts, with the return of Cooks private brand well received over the Black Friday weekend.

“The turnaround road remains steep with a highly competitive environment and continued constraints pressuring margins ahead,” Boss wrote in an analyst report.

Shares are Neutral rated with an $8.00 price target.

Related: U.S. Auto Sales: Who Gained, Who Lost?

Wells Fargo: Data can be misleading

Wells Fargo senior analyst Paul Lejuez cautioned investors that the company's announcement can be misleading, based on simple math.

“When looking to assess whether business accelerated/decelerated, many turn to stack analysis, which adds comps together to derive a stacked comp. Addition works fine with small numbers. A down 1 percent in year 1 followed by a +1 percent in year two does get you close to flat,” Lejeuz wrote in an analyst report.

He continued, “A down 30 percent followed by an up 30 percent does not (still 9 percent below the base year). This is important because with J.C. Penney, we are dealing with big numbers.”

According to Lejeuz, November comps improved by 230bps based on “real math.” The findings drastically vary from those at J.P. Morgan. Lejeuz noted that a 230bps acceleration is “much less impressive.”

Lejeuz noted that the company's results “may be as good as it gets” as the company enters a lull period following the company's extended Cyber Monday.

Lejeuz concluded by noting that December comparisons are more difficult than November and it won't get any easier with January comparisons being the toughest.

Shares were reiterated with an Underperform rating and a price target in the range of $4 to $5 a share.

Deutsche Bank: November was solid; company may have reached peak

Deutsche Bank research analyst Paul Trussell cautioned investors that while November may have been a positive month for the company, it will only get tougher for the company moving forward.

“Given the easy comparison (we estimate November 2012 was down ~37 percent) which includes cycling Sandy and not having a promotional strategy for Black Friday a year ago – we wonder whether results can actually get better from here,” Trussell wrote in an analyst report.

Trussell believes that the company's same-store sales could moderate from here. The analyst believes that December's comps will come in at 8.0 percent, 6.0 percent in January and 5 percent in fiscal 2014.

While these numbers at first glance appear to be a positive “they fall well short of returning J.C. Penney to a $15+ billion sales entity, which is what we believe is needed for the Bull case to continue at current levels,” Trussel wrote. Given the analysts lack of belief in a bull story playing out, shares were reiterated with a Hold rating and a $6.00 price target.

Shares of J.C. Penney were trading lower by around 4.45 percent in mid-afternoon trading. The Spider S&P Retail (ETF) (NYSE: XRT) was trading lower by 1.27 percent at the same time.


Related Articles (DB + JCP)

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