Shares of Victoria's Secret-owner L Brands spike after beating earnings expectations

Key Points
  • L Brands beat Wall Street's revenue and earnings expectations for the first quarter of 2019.
  • The company also raised the low-end of its earnings forecast for 2019.
  • Same-store sales at Victoria's Secret continued to fall, with the brand reporting a 5% drop.
A shopper carries a Victoria's Secret bag while walking on Steinway Street in the Queens, New York.
Mark Kauzlarich | Bloomberg | Getty Images

Shares of L Brands, the owner of Victoria's Secret and Bath & Body Works, surged 14% in trading Thursday after the company turned in first-quarter results late Wednesday that topped Wall Street's expectations, helped by the strength of its Bath & Body Works stores.

The company raised the low-end of its earnings forecast for 2019. It expects earnings to fall between $2.30 and $2.60 a share, up from its previous estimates of $2.20 and $2.60 per share.

L Brands has been working to improve performance at its Victoria's Secret stores. In a conference call with investors on Thursday, L Brands CFO Stuart Burgdoerfer said "substantial changes to the assortment" at Victoria's Secret are coming, which consumers will begin to see in August.

"We've got strong reasons for optimism about the progression in 2019 for the lingerie business," Burgdoerfer said.

Here's what the company reported compared with what Wall Street expected, based on a survey of analysts by Refinitiv:

  • Earnings per share: 14 cents vs. break-even expected
  • Revenue: $2.63 billion vs. $2.56 billion expected
  • Same-store sales: Flat vs. down 1.3% expected

For the first quarter ended May 4, L Brands said net income fell to $40.3 million, or 14 cents a share, from $47.5 million, or 17 cents a share, a year ago. That was far better than the breakeven results that analysts had predicted on a per-share basis.

L Brands net sales inched up to $2.628 billion from $2.625 billion a year ago. Analysts expected the company to earn $2.56 billion.

Sales at stores open at least 12 months were flat during the quarter, but that was better than the 1.3% decline analysts predicted.

Same-store sales at Victoria's Secret continued to fall, with the brand reporting a 5% drop in comparable sales. However, same-store sales at Bath & Body Works rose by 13%.

L Brands said it closed 35 and opened one company-owned Victoria's Secret stores in the first quarter.

The Victoria's Secret brand, known for its sexy bra styles, has struggled to adapt to changing consumer tastes and has faced criticism for selling less comfortable bras, which it markets on ever-skinnier models. The brand has lost market share to companies like Adore Me, Lively, ThirdLove and American Eagle's Aerie, which consumers say are more comfortable and inclusive of different body types.

After Victoria's Secret saw a $500 million drop in annual revenues after pulling its bathing suits off the market in 2016, the brand recently decided to reintroduce swimwear.

L Brands CEO Les Wexner earlier this month also sent an internal memo to employees saying Victoria's Secret is "rethinking" its annual fashion show because network television is no longer the "right fit." Viewership of the event has declined. Last year's show in December earned the worst ratings in its nearly 20-year broadcast history.

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