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Can JC Penney Turn Itself Around With Earnings?

J.C. Penney Co. Inc. (NYSE: JCP) is scheduled to report its fiscal second-quarter financial results Friday before the markets open. Consensus estimates from Thomson Reuters call for a net loss of $0.48 per share on $2.86 billion in revenue. In the same period of the previous year, the struggling retailer posted a net loss of $75 per share and revenue of $2.80 billion.

Management has spent the past several quarters promoting a recovery that began after the end of the tenure of former Apple Retail Chief Ron Johnson. His replacement was Mike Ullman III, who has posted a very modest recovery from the disaster under Johnson, when sales fell as much as 20% per quarter. The price of the company’s stock is the critical measure of whether a recovery is real. It has dropped from $42 in February 2012 to just above $8 recently.

The reason the stock continues to be depressed is that the recovery has been no recovery at all. In the quarter that ended May 2, revenue rose only 2% to $2.86 billion. J.C. Penney lost $167 million. Granted, that was better than the $352 million lost in the same period the year before. Same-store sales were up 3.4%, which does very little to fill the hole Johnson created.

History shows how far J.C. Penney has to go. Revenue was over $17 billion in both the 2011 and 2012 fiscal years. The number dropped to $13 billion in 2013 and $11.9 billion in 2014. Fiscal 2015 was a modest recovery to $12.3 billion. Even if same-store sales improvements are 5%, it means it will take years for J.C. Penney to return to its former size.

A few analysts weighed in on J.C. Penney prior to the release of the earnings report:

  • Evercore ISI upgraded the stock to a Hold rating from Sell.
  • Piper Jaffray reiterated a Buy rating with a $15 price target.
  • Oppenheimer reiterated a Hold rating.

So far on the year, the company has actually outperformed the market, despite its relatively flat revenues. Shares were up nearly 28% year to date, but they were down about 13% over the past 52 weeks.

Shares of J.C. Penney were down 0.5% at $8.23 Thursday afternoon. The stock has a consensus analyst price target of $8.89 and a 52-week trading range of $5.90 to $11.30.

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By Chris Lange