- PERSHING ON TARGET: Activist hedge fund firm Pershing Square Capital Management has purchased an additional stake in Target Corp., bringing its current ownership of the discount retailer to 9.97 percent, up from 9.6 percent, on an aggregate basis, according to a U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission filing on Dec. 21. Shares of Target have been heavily traded in the past six months following disclosure that Pershing Square's investing in the chain could get the retailer to sell its profitable credit card business, which generates $6.5 billion and contributed $143 million to Target's first-quarter earnings of $651 million. In July, Pershing Square took a 9.6 percent stake in the nation's number-two discounter and indicated in a regulatory filing that it intended to start talks with Target's management about increasing shareholder value. It since has met with Target management.

Meanwhile, in other Target news, Deborah Weinswig, Citigroup equity analyst, said in her monthly credit review of the company that charge-offs for the retailer accelerated on a year-over-year basis and month-to-month. From October to November, Target's charge-offs rose to 7.05 percent versus 6.42 percent. On a year-over-year basis, the analyst said charge-offs gained 83 basis points. "We had already raised our bad debt provision estimate for Target in anticipation of our expectation for deterioration in the credit metrics,'' Weinswig said in her note. "Interestingly, November receivables growth remained healthy and delinquencies were virtually flat year-over-year versus last month.'' Weinswig said receivables growth continued to be strong, "as the company focuses on building relationships with new and existing customers and targeted marketing for credit card customers.'' Weinswig added that she remains "very watchful of the trends in charge-offs.'' Charge-offs are the threshold when a creditor deems the debt as bad.

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