Parent company to the Victoria’s Secret and Bath & Body Works brands on Friday updated its forward-looking guidance, increasing its first-quarter earnings per share estimates from $0.35 to $0.45 a share to the higher range of $0.55 to $0.65 a piece. Company shares closed up 9.02 percent Friday to $60.89 a piece as a result.
“We are pleased with our quarter-to-date performance at both Bath & Body Works and Victoria’s Secret,” Andrew Meslow, chief executive officer of L Brands, said in a statement. “While the current environment still presents uncertainty, we have raised our earnings guidance for the first quarter due to strong sales and margin results quarter-to-date, which also contributed to an improvement in our expectations for the remainder of the quarter.”
In addition, L Brands’ board revealed plans to pay off more than $1 billion in debt in outstanding bonds, while repurchasing $500 million in company shares and reinstating the company’s annual dividend at $0.60 a share, with the first quarterly dividend to be paid this June.
“L Brands took a series of actions throughout 2020 to improve financial and operational performance, which led to record third- and fourth -quarter results, increased liquidity and a year-end cash balance of $3.9 billion,” said Sarah Nash, L Brands chairperson of the board. “The actions being announced today further support our effort to decrease leverage and enhance returns to shareholders, while better positioning the Bath & Body Works and Victoria’s Secret businesses for separation in August.”
L Brands has previously said it is on a “dual-path approach to the separation of Victoria’s Secret” pursuing options to either sell the Victoria’s Secret brand — which includes the Lingerie, Beauty and Pink divisions — or separate it from Bath & Body Works. Both routes would allow the more profitable Bath & Body Works brand to stand alone on the public market, helping unlock shareholder value.
The strategy is just one part of L Brands’ recovery methods. Victoria’s Secret has added a string of senior-level hires over the last few months to help turn the business around while updating the assortment and marketing materials. In addition, it sold a majority stake of the Victoria’s Secret U.K. business to Next plc and closed hundreds of unprofitable stores to make way for more lucrative markets, such as Milan and Israel. In February, Victoria’s Secret unveiled the return of swimwear to select stores.
So far the plan seems to be working. Company shares are up approximately 278 percent, year-over-year.