Michael Kors Holdings Ltd. just took greater control of its future.
In reporting a drop in net income for the fourth quarter and full year ended April 2 and predicting a decline in comparable-store sales for the current fiscal year, Kors on Wednesday revealed that it had completed the acquisition of Michael Kors Ltd., the exclusive licensee of the company in China and certain other jurisdictions in Asia for $500 million in cash, subject to certain adjustments.
The Chinese operation had been owned by Sportswear Holdings, the partnership of Silas Chou and Lawrence Stroll, as well as by designer Michael Kors and John D. Idol, Kors’ chief executive officer. Because of that, the company also had the deal assessed by a special committee and a third-party adviser.
Sportswear Holdings helped to take Kors public in 2011. Joseph B. Parsons, the company’s chief financial officer, said that Kors expects to incur $15 million of one-time transaction costs and other contingency payments related to the Greater China acquisition.
The acquisition of the Chinese license fits in with Kors’ increasing focus on its own retail operations over wholesale — a point Idol again made Wednesday in discussing the results on a conference call with Wall Street analysts. The Greater China business had total revenue of $197 million for the year ended March 31, and had a network of 91 company-operated retail stores and six travel retail locations across China, Hong Kong, Macau and Taiwan. The business is expected to generate $200 million in retail sales for the current fiscal.
Separately, the company in the fourth quarter acquired its South Korea license.
BB&T analyst Corinna L. Freedman said the purchase of the Chinese license was “long-anticipated” since the company’s initial public offering and given the eventual sale of Kors shares by Sportswear Holdings. Jefferies analyst Randal J. Konik said bringing China in house bodes well for the long term: “We view the directly operated strategy very favorably as it can capitalize on the significant growth opportunity here at a higher margin. The company is targeting $1 billion in sales from Asia over the long term with $500 million coming from Greater China, implying a long runway for growth ahead.”
Idol told analysts in the conference call that the company opened 142 retail stores globally last year and plans to open its Singapore flagship later this year. He said Kors will introduce the Michael Kors Access wearable technology line this fall, and is on track to offer three styles of smart jewelry aimed at activity-tracking. A new fragrance, Wanderlust, is on tap for the fall, initially to be available just in North America before being sold globally.
He said that while there was some weakness in accessories sales in North America on the wholesale side, the company saw double-digit growth in its own retail doors. Idol also affirmed what the company has said before in earnings calls, that the men’s business is a $1 billion revenue opportunity for Kors.
Despite the downturn in fiscal 2016 and a downbeat forecast for the current year, the company beat earnings estimates by 1 cent for the fourth quarter and managed to beat revenue estimates as well. The company’s board also approved a new $1 billion share repurchase program.Wall Street liked what it heard from Kors and the company’s shares rose 6.6 percent to close at $45.55 on the New York Stock Exchange.
For the three months ended April 2, net income fell 3.1 percent to $177 million, or 98 cents a diluted share, from $182.6 million, or 90 cents, a year ago. The current quarter was 53 weeks compared with last year’s 52 weeks. Total revenues rose 10.9 percent to $1.20 billion from $1.08 billion, which included an 11.9 percent gain in net sales to $1.16 billion from $1.04 billion. The balance of revenues was from licensing income.
Sales by category saw retail net sales rise 22 percent to $572.6 million, driven mostly by e-commerce sales. Comparable sales rose 0.3 percent. Wholesale net sales rose 3.5 percent to $590.5 million, the company said. By region, revenues in the Americas rose 4.6 percent to $879.1 million, while European revenues grew 15.6 percent to $254.1 million. Revenue in Asia rose 216.4 percent to $65.5 million.
For the full year, net income slipped 4.8 percent to $839.1 million, or $4.44 a diluted share, on a 7.8 percent gain in total revenues to $4.54 billion.
“Beyond delivering strong financial performance, we raised the level of fashion innovations and newness in our product assortment,” Idol told analysts. “Michael and the design team elevated our product offering with new trend-leading silhouettes, textures, colors and materials, which were met with a positive response from our customers.”
Konik of Jefferies noted several catalysts that could drive Kors’ stock higher: 1) higher price points and reduced promotions; 2) launch of smartwatches and trackers in fall 2016; 3) moderating inventory levels in wholesale to reduce promotional pressure; 4) accelerated e-commerce growth; 5) expansion of men’s business with a long-term goal of $1 billion in sales; 6) international expansion driven by Asia; 7) returning cash to shareholders through the new $1 billion share repurchase program, and 8) growth from potential new brand acquisition.
For the first quarter of fiscal 2017, the company guided total revenues to be between $940 million to $950 million, which includes a planned reduction in wholesale shipments, and comparable sales to decrease in the midsingle-digit range. Diluted earnings per share are expected at between 62 cents and 66 cents, including one-time costs. On an adjusted basis excluding one-time items, Kors expects the range to be 70 cents to 74 cents, below current estimates of 94 cents.
For fiscal 2017, total revenue is expected to be flat versus the prior year and comparable sales to decrease in the low-single digit range. Diluted EPS is expected between $4.47 to $4.55, including one-time costs.
Wells Fargo’s Ike Boruchow said the quarterly results were a “mixed bag,” noting that when “digging deeper, details continue to show that the core business remains under pressure” as retail comps appear to be worsening and wholesale is now planned down meaningfully this fiscal year due to a pullback in the U.S. department store channel. He also noted that while full-year guidance was in the range of Wall Street’s estimates, it was mostly due to a lower tax rate — 21 percent versus 28 percent.
Boruchow said he’s staying sidelined on the stock given that the fundamental story remains choppy with a good deal of uncertainty around the U.S. business. With traffic trends negative in North America and the competitive landscape still promotional, he expects average unit retail to remain pressured. The analyst also added that guidance for “positive retail sales is purely driven by the acquisition of the China license and the addition of the Europe e-commerce platform.”