Aéropostale Shares Fall Sharply

Stock down following larger-than-expected Q1 loss, weak Q2 projections.

Shares of troubled teen specialty retailer Aéropostale Inc. shed more than one-fifth of their value in morning trading Friday as investors fled the stock following a larger-than-expected first-quarter loss and weak second-quarter guidance after the markets closed Thursday.

The stock closed out the morning at $3.45, down $1.07 or 23.7 percent, after hitting a 52-week low of $3.37, their lowest mark in more than 10 years. Shares hit their 52-week high of $16.82 exactly one year ago.

Analysts expressed concern both about the chain’s liquidity and its ability to catch on with shoppers in the youth market, which has shown a growing affection for fast-fashion retailers at the expense of conventional teen merchants.

Late Thursday, the New York-based specialty chain, spun off in 2002 from a private label initiative at Macy’s, reported a $76.8 million loss, greater than analysts expected as well as that of a year ago. Sales contracted 12.5 percent to $395.9 million and declined 13 percent on a same-store basis.

The projected loss of between 55 and 61 cents a share for the second quarter was also deeper than the 29-cent-a-share loss expected by analysts prior to the first-quarter report.

Jefferies analyst Randal Konik lauded the company’s “little victories” in the first quarter but said they were “not enough to move the needle. The relative outperformance of fashion product and newer sub-brands is encouraging, just not enough to offset deterioration of the core businesses.” He also noted the firm’s 3.9 percent decline in inventories as a positive.

“We laud management’s fervor toward attacking every angle possible to stabilize the business, be it store closures, securing external financing, reducing [capital expenditures],” he wrote in a note to clients. “Still, many quarters into the downturn, the dots aren’t connecting in terms of the financial results or outlook.”

Wells Fargo analyst Paul Lejuez estimated that Aéropostale’s cash burn for the current year would be $100 million and about $49 million in fiscal 2015. “Though ARO has found some wins in fashion — Live Love Dream, Bethany Mota, Tokyo Darling — the basic and core fashion business, 85 percent of the assortment, remains pressured,” he wrote.

Investors and analysts had also hoped that the first-quarter report would bring an update on the company’s plan to raise $150 million through a cash infusion from Sycamore Partners, which many now expect to close next month.

“Although the company has a $230 million revolver in place, without the closure of the Sycamore deal, liquidity becomes a major issue as the company burns through cash in efforts to restructure the business,” said Eric Beder, Brean Capital analyst, who reiterated his “hold” rate for the stock.