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Will a Boutique Analyst Upgrade Help Iconix Brand Group?

Iconix Brand Group Inc. (NASDAQ: ICON) finally may have found one stabilizing agent for its shrinking share price. After shares broke under $14.00 on Tuesday, Wednesday’s early trading offered a gain of almost 3%, after losing almost half of its value in the past week.

The driving force for Iconix Brand Group on Wednesday morning was an analyst upgrade. A boutique firm called Monnes Crespi & Hardt has decided to upgrade the stock rating to Buy from Neutral. That Buy rating comes with an $18 price target.

Concerns remain in this upgrade, and it looks like more of a valuation call, with a note about its current earnings multiple at half of what it was over the past three years on average. The main concern is over organic growth, although this is said to be well-known and should be priced in on a risk-reward basis. Another additional positive is that management set a low bar ahead on guidance, with several positive catalysts ahead.

Unfortunately, Iconix has been having real problems of late. Ahead of earnings, the chief executive stepped down. Its most recent earnings were handily short at $0.45 per share (about one-third short of estimates), and that was also down about 40% from a year earlier.

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Guidance also was shown to have licensing revenues growing in the low single-digits as well, to a range of $410 million to $425 million for the year. Earnings guidance for the year was also taken down to $2.00 to $2.15 per share from a prior range of $3.00 to $3.15 per share.

Another risk is that shareholder suits may have some merit here. The stock has not fallen just because of performance that was slightly under estimates — it has been a disaster. A CEO departure on the heels of departures of a chief financial officer and a chief operating officer all in the same year is far from any vote of confidence.

The company’s brand portfolio includes the following: Candies, Bongo, Badgley Mischka, Joe Boxer, Rampage, Mudd, London Fog, Mossimo, Ocean Pacific, Danskin, Rocawear, Cannon, Royal Velvet, Fieldcrest, Charisma, Starter, Waverly, Ecko Unltd, Marc Ecko Cut & Sew, Zoo York, Sharper Image, Umbro, and Lee Cooper. Iconix also has interest in the Artful Dodger, Material Girl, Peanuts, Ed Hardy, Truth or Dare, Billionaire Boys Club, Ice Cream, Modern Amusement, Buffalo, Nick Graham, Hydraulic and Strawberry Shortcake brands.

Investors are so far at least taking it that Iconix may be a bargain worth chasing. Whether that holds remains to be seen. Shares were up 2% at $14.16 mid-morning Wednesday, versus a 52-week range of $13.17 to $42.25. Shares were as high as $14.41 shortly after the open.

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By Jon C. Ogg


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