Signet Jewelers Ltd.’s increases in first-quarter profits and sales just missed analysts’ expectations while its guidance for the current quarter fell below Wall Street’s forecasts.
In the three months ended May 2, Signet, which concluded its $1.46 billion acquisition of Zale Corp. one year ago, reported net income of $118.8 million, or $1.48 a diluted share, 23 percent above the $96.6 million, or $1.20, posted in the year-ago period. Excluding purchase accounting adjustments and transaction costs, adjusted earnings per share was $1.62, 1 cent below the consensus estimate of analysts.
Revenues rose 44.9 percent, to $1.53 billion from $1.06 billion, below the $1.54 billion consensus estimate. Excluding sales attributed to Zale, sales rose 3.5 percent to $1.09 billion.
Same-store sales results were up 3.6 percent overall, rising 5.6 percent at Zale, 6.2 percent at the U.K. division and ahead 2.3 percent at the Sterling division, despite a lower-than-anticipated 0.2 percent increase at the Jared brand within the Sterling unit.
“We continue to see favorable progress of our integration of the Zale division,” said Signet chief executive officer Mark Light. “As we implement new operating initiatives and deploy incremental capital resources, the Zale division has begun, as expected, to grow its same-store sales faster than Signet overall. We expect this trend to continue, and we remain well-positioned to meet our goal of $150 million to $175 million in cumulative three-year operating profit synergies by the end of January 2018.”
On a conference call with analysts, Light noted, “We believe that Jared is definitely gaining profitable market share against their competitive set….Jared sets us at 21 out of 22 quarters of positive comps.”
He noted that net sales for the Jared brand were up 4.4 percent, to $295.5 million, and in addition to merchandising programs including its Neil Lane Designs and its test with Vera Wang, previously exclusive to Zales as the diamond jewelry collection Vera Wang Love, “we recently launched a test of incremental radio advertising in several markets, markets that helped strengthen our bridal position. In addition, we also launched Jared’s first-ever brand book used for direct mail marketing and in-store use.”
He credited “critical traffic-building repair and design” functions within the Jared operation conceived to “enhance our artisans’ ability to deliver high-quality product at even faster time frames” in his optimistic assessment of Jared’s future.
Investors appeared disappointed with Signet’s second-quarter guidance, which was below that of most analysts. Same-store sales are seen improving 2 to 3 percent while adjusted EPS is projected to range between $1.11 and $1.16 a diluted share. The consensus estimate prior to the release of first-quarter results was for EPS of $1.19.
Shares closed Thursday at $132.28, down 0.6 percent.
Sterne Agee analyst Ike Boruchow maintained his “buy” rating on the stock, as well as its price target of $158 and its status as his “top pick.”
“Margin performance was strong at both Sterling and Zales and, while the Q2 outlook incorporates a more conservative view of the business, we’d point out that [the second half] carries several reasons for consumer optimism,” he wrote.
Among the promising aspects of the story from his perspective are synergy benefits that will become more visible; an agreement with Alliance Data Systems to operate a private-label credit card and loyalty program at Zales, expected to produce $22 million in additional profits, and relatively easy holiday comparisons.