Abercrombie & Fitch Co. is slated to post first-quarter earnings results on Thursday — and they could be even worse than the already dire ones that analysts forecast.
Wall Street’s consensus estimate for the quarter pegs the retailer’s net loss at 70 cents a share, on sales of $651 million. In the year-ago quarter, the company posted a loss of 59 cents a diluted share on revenues of $685.5 million.
Matthew R. Boss at J.P. Morgan Chase said Tuesday the loss could be as high as 76 cents, noting that the core Abercrombie concept has had a “promotional stance” throughout the first quarter.
Wolfe Research’s Adrienne Yih has an “underperform” rating on shares of Abercrombie, noting that a potential comparable-store sales upside for the Hollister concept would be offset by negative comps at the Abercrombie & Fitch brand. Her rating for the stock was due in part to “low visibility into comp turnaround given anemic traffic and deeper promos,” as well as limited historical examples of successful brand repositioning in retail.
Wunderlich Securities Inc.’s Eric Beder on Monday reiterated his “sell” rating on shares of Abercrombie. “We believe the company has continued to be unable to find answers to the riddle of turning the namesake brand,” the analyst said, adding that “with no real path to recovery in the near term and what we view as somewhat futile attempts to sell itself, we see limited positives and reiterate our ‘sell’ rating.”
Beder also said he believes the company will miss first-quarter Street expectations for a loss per share of 70 cents and a comps decline of 5 percent. The analyst said that his team’s pricing surveys indicate “an almost continuous free fall in pricing integrity at the namesake chain, as we believe the shift to older customers was misguided and has not worked.”
Further, Beder didn’t think that Abercrombie would be able to obtain a cash premium for selling itself due to limited cost synergies, weakness in the Abercrombie brands and a history of “disastrous specialty retail mergers.” He has a $12 price target for shares of Abercrombie.
Trading in the retailer’s shares were halted for about six minutes Wednesday afternoon before spiking up 6.8 percent in the early afternoon following a Wall Street Journal report that private equity firm Cerberus Capital Management was teaming with American Eagle Outfitters on a possible joint bid for the retailer. The shares ended the day’s trading session up 5.7 percent to close at $12.89. Shares of American Eagle saw a slight gain of 2.3 percent to close at $11.32.
A representative for American Eagle said the retailer’s policy is to “not comment on market speculation,” while an A&F spokeswoman said the company isn’t commenting beyond a statement on May 10 acknowledging that it was in “preliminary discussions with several parties regarding a potential transaction with the company.” A spokesman for Cerberus did not return a request for comment.
Les Berglass, founder, chairman and chief executive officer of executive recruitment firm Berglass + Associates, was one of the first to note private equity’s interest in retail.
According to Berglass, American Eagle buying its competitor down the mall could work if it “believes that it could source goods so efficiently that it could make a profit, even if the [Abercrombie] brand remained flat.” But he also cautioned that kind of thinking “only works some of the time,” provided the sourcing and expected efficiencies are managed correctly.