NEW YORK — Nordstrom’s announcement Wednesday of a new $300 million share repurchase program should renew Wall Street’s faith in the company’s financial position, given its weaker-than-expected earnings guidance last week, which promptly caused the company’s shares to plummet.
The buyback also lends further credence to the retail sector’s improved health, as Nordstrom is the latest to join a swelling number of retailers using their growing cash stockpiles for buybacks and dividend payouts.
Shares of Nordstrom were unchanged at $36.56 in trading Wednesday on the New York Stock Exchange, but are currently off a 52-week high of $46.30 reached on July 28. Based on Wednesday’s closing price, about 8 million total shares should be repurchased under the new program, which will eventually reduce the total share count by 5.8 percent. Nordstrom said the shares will be acquired through open market transactions in the next 12 to 24 months.
“The company’s balance sheet and operating performance are strong and this share repurchase program reflects the confidence we have in our business and our ongoing commitment to return value to shareholders,” said Blake Nordstrom, president of Nordstrom, in a statement.
In its most recent quarterly report last week, the company posted second-quarter profits of $106.9 million, or 75 cents a share, which missed analysts’ estimates by two cents. The profit was up, however, from $65.9 million, or 48 cents, in the year earlier. Nordstrom forecast third-quarter and full-year earnings to be below estimates.
While David Malmgren, a portfolio manager at Fulton Breakefield Broenniman, called Nordstrom’s buyback program “a dividend for shareholders” because it will increase future earnings per share, he thinks the motivation for the announcement is a reaction to last Friday — the first full day of trading after the quarterly report — when Nordstrom’s shares tanked 9.2 percent. “I definitely think they’re saying, ‘We didn’t deserve this.’”
Deniz Anders, a spokeswoman for Nordstrom, said, however, that the buyback announcement was a coincidence with the timing of the quarterly earnings report. “We’ve been evaluating a repurchase for some time now. It’s a great way to use excess cash.” As of July 31, Nordstrom had $485 million of cash in its coffers.
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