Things are getting worse for the Angels.
On Tuesday, Moody’s Investors Service downgraded L Brands, parent company of Victoria’s Secret, from “stable” to “negative.”
“L Brands’ negative outlook reflects the deteriorating operating margins and negative comparable-store sales at Victoria’s Secret for the past 10 quarters,” Christina Boni, Moody’s vice president and senior credit officer, said in a statement.
In the note, Boni pointed out that L Brands, which also owns Pink and Bath & Body Works, still has considerable equity from its brand names and significant scale “despite its concentration on two narrow product niches.”
“Nonetheless, current weakness at its Victoria’s Secret division has pressured operating results with increased promotional activity as the company revamps its product and aligns its inventory levels with demand,” Boni wrote.
The vice president pointed out that the company has about $338 million worth of notes that will be due in May 2020 and about $2 billion worth of debt maturing in April 2022. Moody’s anticipates L Brands will use its remaining free cash flow, around $375 million, to free up some of that debt.
Victoria’s Secret, still the market-share leader in women’s lingerie, has been struggling in recent years as consumer preferences shift toward brands that promote inclusivity and unairbrushed models. Shares of parent company L Brands stock are down more than 25 percent year-over-year; more than 70 percent since from the company’s peak in December 2015.
Even the rating of the annual fashion show, once regarded as the must-see fashion event of the season, have fallen in recent years. More so, almost all of parent company L Brands’ gains have come from its lucrative Bath & Body Works business.
L Brands did not respond to requests for comments.
But that doesn’t mean the Angels will disappear without a fight.
In fact, L Brands has done a number of things in the last year to refresh the portfolio. That includes shedding unprofitable businesses like La Senza and Henri Bendel, ousting former chief executive officer Jan Singer in favor of Tory Burch alum John Mehas, announcing plans to close 53 Victoria’s Secret stores, reintroducing swimsuits to the web site last month and even adding indie designers like French brand Livy to the mix.
Stuart Burgdoerfer, vice president and chief financial officer of L Brands, even tried to tame analysts’ fears during the February conference call when he said that L Brands is “not financially constrained.”
“Everything’s got a life cycle,” he said. “And as one gets later in life cycles, you got to innovate and update and create differentiation. And we got a bit behind on that in some of these core bra franchises. And you can be sure that John [Mehas] and the team there are intensely focused on that very question and that big opportunity, frankly. And that’s going to be a big priority as we move to 2019.
“We’re trying to use our best judgment, which certainly isn’t perfect. There’s no such thing, but pretty reasonable judgment,” Burgdoerfer added.
Shares of L Brands closed down 1.75 percent on Tuesday to $27 a share.