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Will J.C. Penney Last Long Enough to Turn Around?

Paul Ausick

J.C. Penney Co. Inc. (JCP) may have built up its cash pile by getting $1.3 billion line of credit and issuing a secondary stock offering for another $800 million or so, but that may not be enough cash to last the venerable retailer long enough to complete its turnaround. Analysts at J.P. Morgan are skeptical, and that skepticism has pushed the stock down to a 30-year low.

A report at Barron’s cites the analysts’ report:

While management believes current liquidity remained adequate though year-end, the $810M equity raise (9/27) provides a backbone for appropriate longer term decisions with guidance for total liquidity of $2.0B+ at year-end (ex greenshoe). Specifically, initial internal planning discussions around holiday 2014 were being impacted by short-term liquidity concerns (impacting buys / staffing decisions), with the equity injection providing flexibility through 2H15 if fundamentals do not inflect next year. That said, the treasure chest is far from infinite with management speaking to potential restructuring in 1H14 (if needed and not in the planning process today) to include the closing of cash flow negative stores (while four-wall profitable today) as an option…

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In other words, something good has to happen sooner rather than later. Penney’s may not last long enough to make it to the 2014 holiday shopping season because the $2 billion or so in liquidity may not be enough to get the company through a tough first half of next year when a restructuring may take place -- a restructuring that the company is not even planning for.

No wonder the stock is taking a beating Tuesday. It put up a new 30-year low of $7.21 and is trading in the early afternoon at $7.39. The 52-week high is $27.00.

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