Earnings Preview: J.C. Penney CEO still sees return to growth this year

theflyonthewall.com

J.C. Penney (JCP) is scheduled to report Q4 before after the market close on Wednesday, February 27, with a conference call scheduled for 5:00 pm ET. The company operates about 1,100 retail stores and jcp.com... EXPECTATIONS: Analysts are looking for EPS of (15c) on revenue of $4.09B, according to First Call. The consensus range for EPS is (69c)-62c on revenue of $3.65B-$4.44B... LAST QUARTER: J.C. Penney reported Q3 EPS of (93c) against estimates for (7c) on revenue of $2.93B against estimates for $3.27B. The company said Q3 same-store sales declined 26.1%, with internet sales down 37.3% to $214M. On the Q3 earnings conference call, the company's CFO said the retailer lost $20M per week on the elimination of month-long value, which hurt SSS by 6.5 percentage points. Though Deutsche Bank analyst Charles Grom said trends at the retailer were deteriorating, J.C. Penney CEO Ron Johnson said his plan was "gaining traction with customers," The New York Times reported in November. During the quarter, the company was rumored to cut some workers at its headquarters. Additionally, Pershing Square's Bill Ackman said Johnson has made the store "a completely different experience" for the shopper, citing improvements like promotions. Johnson told CNBC earlier this month that he believes the company will return to growth this year and that the retailer was on track to complete its transformation by 2015. J.C. Penney also continued its legal battle with Macy's (M) over their partnerships with Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia (MSO). The New York Post said the company's commentary on February sales trends will be closely watched, with there being some talk among insiders that February SSS may be down only slightly or nearly flat... STREET RESEARCH: Buckingham sees "significant" erosion in gross margin due to heavy clearance activity and low markup in Q4. The firm sees -10% comp for Q1. Baird recently said that it will likely take time to woo customers back, but sees headwinds to investor sentiment including the Macy's lawsuit and cash flow concerns... PRICE ACTION: Over the last three months, J.C. Penney shares are up about 20%. Year-to-date, shares are up nearly 5%.

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