Retail

Shares of Victoria's Secret parent L Brands jump on fourth-quarter forecast, in-line profits

Key Points
  • Declining sales at Victoria's Secret have continued to weigh on L Brands' performance.
  • Consumers are increasingly opting for different lingerie brands with more inclusive branding.
  • Bath & Body Works has posted strong sales.
  • L Brands shares are down roughly 38% year to date.
A customer carries a shopping bag while exiting a Victoria's Secret Stores LLC store, a subsidiary of L Brands Inc., in New York, U.S., on Wednesday, Nov. 14, 2018.
Bloomberg | Getty Images

L Brands posted mixed third-quarter results Wednesday as declining sales at its Victoria's Secret brand continued to weigh on its performance.

The company's earnings matched expectations, though revenue fell short. It also said its fiscal-year earnings would fall within a previously projected range.

L Brands shares, which closed near a 10-year low, rose nearly 4% during extended trading. The stock, which has a market value of $4.4 billion, hit a 52-week low of $15.80 earlier Wednesday.

Investors have been hoping the company will find a way to revive its struggling Victoria's Secret brand, and keep the momentum going at its faster-growing Bath & Body Works brand. But third-quarter results showed little evidence to support that.

Here's how the company compared with Wall Street's expectations, according to Refinitiv consensus estimates:

  • Earnings per share: 2 cents, adjusted, vs. 2 cents, expected
  • Revenue: $2.68 billion vs. $2.69 billion, expected
  • Same-Store Sales: Down 2% vs. down 1.0%, expected

The company's net losses widened to $252 million, or 91 cents per share, from a loss of $42.75 million, or 16 cents per share, in the same quarter a year ago.

Excluding one-time items, L Brands earned 2 cents per share, in line with analysts' estimates, according to a Refinitiv survey.

Sales fell to $2.68 billion from $2.78 billion a year ago, and were slightly lower than the $2.69 billion analysts expected.

Same-store sales at L Brands' total business fell 2% in the third quarter, a bigger drop than the 1% decline analysts forecast.

Declines at Victoria's Secret stores open at least a year accelerated, dropping 7% in the latest period compared with the 2% decline in the same quarter last year.

Victoria's Secret sales have declined as women increasingly opt for more inclusive lingerie brands such as Adore Me, Lively, ThirdLove and American Eagle's Aerie.

"There's a big belief in the company that we need to evolve," said John Mehas, who was named the brand's CEO after Jan Singer left earlier this year. Mehas made those comments at L Brands' investor day in September, where the company discussed efforts it would be making to revive sales.

In October, L Brands cut 50 employees from its headquarters staff, and its head of lingerie division for more than 16 years stepped down. The resignation of April Holt followed a string of other top-level management departures at the lingerie brand, including former chief marketing officer Edward Razek.

Meanwhile, some analysts have speculated that growth at Bath & Body Works has peaked. In the third quarter same-store sales at the brand grew 9%, but that was slower than the 13% increase last year.

The company said it expects 2019 fourth-quarter earnings per share to be about $2.00, which would result in full-year adjusted earnings per share of about $2.40. L Brands previously expected fiscal 2019 earnings to range between $2.30 and $2.60 per share.

With the new forecast within the projected range, L Brand shares rallied Wednesday, but shares are still down more than 30% this year, and pressure is growing on Les Wexner, its chairman and CEO. Wexner is the company's largest shareholder, with a 17% stake.

In March, hedge fund Barington Capital sent a letter to Wexner recommending that the company spin off Victoria's Secret or seek an IPO for Bath & Body Works.

In addition to the dismal stock performance, Wexner's image has been tainted by his relationship with convicted sex offender Jeffrey Epstein.

Epstein, who died in August, was a trustee of the Wexner Foundation. L Brands hired outside counsel to review the company's relationship with Epstein in late July.

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