Shares of J.C. Penney (JCP) surged Friday morning after the struggling retailer reported not-as-bad-as-feared quarterly results, featuring a 6.2% rise in same-store sales and its first increase in foot traffic in 30 months. In recent trading, the stock was up 16%.
While J.C. Penney lost $1.15 per share in the quarter, that was less than the $1.26 consensus and far better than the 'Armageddon' thesis that seemed to prevail among the short sellers; short interest as a precent of J.C. Penney float was over 30% ahead of the quarterly results.
"The short thesis simply exploded...[J.C. Penney] lost a $1.15 [per share] and it's a triumph," Breakout's Jeff Macke quips in the accompanying video. "[CEO Mike] Ullman has proven, if nothing else, he's a survivor and can run a mediocre department store. Just returning to mediocrity makes this stock a wildcard."
But the stock and the company are two different things and 'surviving' is a lot different than thriving. So has J.C. Penney turned a corner and on track for a sustained turnaround? Absolutely not, says Howard Davidowitz, chairman of Davidowitz and Co.
"J.C. Penney looks like a cadaver to me, similar to Sears," he says. "That doesn't mean they're going away tomorrow, but I don't think they're a viable, profitable company for years to come."
J.C. Penney has lost $2.3 billion in the past two years and will "have a giant loss this year no matter what happens," Davidowitz adds, predicting the retailer will conitnue to close stores and lose market share to TJMaxx and others. "They're nowhere in the marketplace. They're going to lose a fortune this year."
That said, J.C. Penney has $1.17 billion in cash and revealed a $2.35 billion credit facility, replacing an existing $1.85 billion bank line. The company expects to have more than $2 billion in liquid assets at the end of 2014.
Davidowitz says that just buys J.C. Penney time to stave off the inevitable. "This is not a company with a future," he says.
But Makce isn't so sure or, at least, not so dire with his outlook, noting the threat of vendors abandoning the company -- which slammed shares last year -- has been lifted.
"Vendors are shipping goods because Ullman will be able to keep the lights on," he says. "They can lose money for a while, which they will, but sales will look relatively good compared to last year...and that's good enough to stay alive."
And definitely good enough to squeeze the shorts, at least for a day (or two).
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