Investors will be keeping close tabs on the Nordstrom Inc. conference call Thursday afternoon after the retailer reports second-quarter results.
But what they’re hoping to hear won’t be necessarily just about earnings. Investors told WWD they are hoping to glean some hint on the status of the possible management-led buyout that the company in June said was being explored.
Currently Wall Street’s consensus estimate is for diluted EPS of 63 cents on projected sales of $3.75 billion.
Analyst Adrienne Yih at Wolfe Research, said she expects “ongoing negative comps, particularly at frontline stores, as management maintains promotional and inventory discipline. We expect management to continue to pursue a management-led take private effort. We note ongoing pricing pressure and foresee a highly promotional [second half], especially as Amazon amps up its apparel effort through both branded partnerships and private label fashion brands.”
Most investors still believe that the management-led buyout process, if it were to be concluded, would need to have some resolution by mid- to late September in order to get financing and other approvals completed by year-end. There’s no immediate need to get a deal completed, either because there isn’t any debt or refinancing issue that’s kicking up any short-term deadline or because there’s no activist investor pushing for a quick conclusion. However, the general feeling among some investors is that the nine independent board members — excluding family board members Peter, Blake and Eric, who are not considered independent — probably wouldn’t want the process to drag into next year. That’s because it would leave too many questions unanswered about the future, such as what the capital structure could look like further down the road.
And while the passage of two months into the exploration process is hardly an eternity, that hasn’t stopped some investors from trying to read the tea leaves.
The retailer is planning on having a general investor meeting with a select group on Aug. 23, and the pitch initially was to have a family member speak at the meeting. It is understood that investor meeting will no longer include a family member, and that has some thinking that perhaps there are ongoing in-depth discussions between family members and one or two private equity firms that might be interested in financing a management-led buyout. The thinking is that speaking at the general investor meeting and at the same time participating in talks for a management-led buyout would be a conflict of interest, said one financial source.
Some investors are scratching their heads as to why the family is thinking of taking the company private. The consensus is that a buyout is more likely to occur at $50 a share than at $52. But a buyout at $50 isn’t exactly a premium, meaning that most of the proceeds would go to the private equity investor and leave little left on the table to help the family grow the company, whether through investments in technology or the refurbishment of stores.
Shares of Nordstrom on Monday closed down 1.1 percent to $46.88 on the New York Stock Exchange.
A spokeswoman for Nordstrom did not return a request for comment. A spokesman for Moelis & Co., the financial advisor, declined comment.