European markets have been a drag on business for Guess Inc. for years now. So when the L.A. jeans maker again blamed weak financial results on ongoing economic turmoil last month, analysts were not particularly surprised. In fact, earnings exceeded their tempered expectations. What did surprise them, however, was executives’ dismal outlook for the year ahead.
Guess announced it expected earnings per share to fall by almost 12 percent, at best, over the next year. In response, Eric Beder and Danielle McCoy, analysts at Brean Capital LLC in New York, lowered their target price on shares of company stock, citing “dreary guidance.”
Separately, analysts at Miller Tabak + Co. LLC in New York downgraded Guess stock March 21 from “buy” to “neutral.”
News of executives’ disappointing outlook for Guess came shortly after the fashion company announced that its president for North American operations, Nancy Shachtman, had left the company. She was the third senior executive to leave the company in the last six months. Both J. Michael Prince, chief operating officer, and Dennis Secor, finance chief and senior vice president, left to pursue other interests in November.
As a result of the barrage of bad news, Guess shares closed down more than 7 percent to $25.03 on March 27, making it one of the biggest losers on the LABJ Stock Index last week. (See page 30.)
Even though analysts were generally disappointed with the company’s performance of late, Beder and McCoy expressed optimism that the company won’t be down for long.
“While we believe Guess will be somewhat challenged in the near term, we believe today could prove to be the bottom for the stock,” they wrote in a research note to investors late last month.
That’s because they expect sales in North America to turn around in the next year as the company reconstitutes its management team. The company plans to hire a design chief and head of merchandising for the region in the next few weeks, and has begun a search for chief financial and chief operating officers.
Guess Chief Executive Paul Marciano said he was very disappointed with the company’s poor performance in North America, where the brand’s increasingly expensive fashions have sold poorly in an environment that has shoppers looking for bargains.
“We have taken a hard look at this business and we’re in the process of making some strategic management changes,” he said on a conference call with investors last month. “My top priority is to continue to focus on building an executive team with the combination of new and existing talent.”
Guess was not the only L.A. jeans company whose stock slouched last week.
Vernon apparel company True Religion Apparel Inc. joined Guess as one of the biggest losers on the LABJ Stock Index last week after its shares closed down 6 percent to $26.15.
L.A. denim company Joe’s Jeans Inc. didn’t fare much better: Shares closed down 5 percent to $1.68.
While little news is needed to force big swings in a lightly traded stock like Joe’s Jeans, True Religion is another story.
Shareholders ran from True Religion stock last week after rumors surfaced that the company is no longer considering a sale as it explores strategic alternatives.
A New York Post article reported three private-equity firms that had been vying for the jeans maker – including L.A.’s Gores Group and Sycamore Partners in New York – had dropped their bids as shares became more expensive.
Shares of True Religion began climbing when the company announced it had formed a committee to explore strategic alternatives last year and rose further after the company ousted Jeff Lubell, its eccentric founder and chief executive, last month. The company tapped Lynne Koplin, its president, to serve as interim chief executive. Koplin has been with the company since 2010.
Executives at True Religion and Gores Group did not return requests for comment. Sycamore executives declined to comment.
Beder and McCoy of Brean Capital are as optimistic about True Religion as they are about Guess. In a research note to investors, they said they believe the company will continue to prosper, even without a sale.
“If a deal is not completed, we believe Lynne will be a highly competent CEO who will be able to drive more visible and consistent returns,” they wrote.
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