Zale Corp. continued to show signs of renewed strength as it neared a hurdle for its $1.4 billion acquisition by competitor Signet Jewelers Ltd.
In the third quarter ended April 30, the Dallas-based jewelry retailer’s net income rose 74.6 percent to $8.8 million, or 19 cents a diluted share, from $5.1 million, or 13 cents, in the year-ago period. The performance in the 2014 period beat the analysts’ consensus estimate for earnings per share of 17 cents by 2 cents.
Revenues dropped 2.6 percent to $431 million from $442.7 million, attributed to a store base of 78 fewer units and weakness in the Canadian dollar. Comparable-store sales rose 1.9 percent at constant currency and were up 0.6 percent in U.S. dollars, led by a 2.1 percent increase at the Zales division. Overall, comps were up 2 percent at its jewelry stores in the U.S. and down 5.2 percent in Canada, although Canadian comps were up 3.2 percent at constant currency.
While it didn’t provide guidance for future quarters or hold a conference call to discuss results, Zale’s management reported that sales in the first 18 days of May were down 2.2 percent on a constant-currency basis and off 3.4 percent in U.S. dollars. Zale expects gross margin for the quarter to be consistent with results for the just-completed quarter, when the metric grew to 56 percent of sales from 52.6 percent in the year-ago period.
Zale shareholders will meet to consider the sale of the company to Signet at a special meeting on May 29. Zale offered a vigorous defense of the terms of the deal in response to opposition from TIG Advisors LLC, which holds 9.5 percent of Zale’s stock, intends to vote its shares against the deal and has encouraged fellow shareholders to do the same or abstain from voting, which could deny Zale the quorum it needs to advance the transaction. Zale contends that the $21 a share to be paid to stockholders represents a fair price in light of the stock’s appreciation — shares closed at $4.84 on Feb. 19, 2013 — and the still-early nature of its turnaround.
TIG called that response “baffling and intransigent.”