Wall Street is warming up to Gap Inc. and trying to get into the stock before it goes any higher.
Wolfe Research analyst Adrienne Yih upgraded her rating on Gap Inc. to “outperform” from “peer perform” and gave the stock a 2017 year-end price target of $30. She said that increased confidence in the Old Navy recovery and upside earnings potential convinced her to pull the trigger.
Yih also raised her earnings estimates for fiscal year 2016 to $1.88 from $1.85 with consensus at $1.86. Her 2017 earnings estimate is now $2.15, up from $2.01, and she initiated a 2018 earnings estimate of $2.30.
The analyst thinks that Old Navy can stabilize and begin a recovery in the second half of 2016. She also believes that positive inventory inflections are on the horizon. Sales were down in May, but they did show some improvement in June.
Yih applauded the decision to close 75 stores, even though the closures will cost the retailer $300 million and cut annual sales by $250 million. She thinks it’s the right decision and will save the company $275 million, calling the units “money-losing stores.”
There is an acknowledgement of mall issues and the shift of customers from physical stores to online. The analyst is also aware that it is important for the brand to resonate with the Millennial generation. Yih also expressed concern over Gap being able to generate full-price selling. Overall though, she sees value.
She’s not alone. Gap Inc.’s stock has fallen 28 percent over the past year, but within the past month the shares have risen 26 percent. Gap Inc. did say that it will reduce its share repurchases and instead use cash to pay down debt. The company has a $400 million term debt due in October.
Hedge fund Beddow Capital Management took a new position in Gap Inc. stock during the first quarter and bought 7,700 shares for about $226,000. Vanguard Group bought an additional 2,744,670 shares in the last quarter and now owns 18,407,316 shares worth about $454 million.
American International Group bought an additional 12,812,126 shares last quarter bringing its total position to 12,950,963 shares worth roughly $319 million.