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Ann Taylor Shows Slip


Retailer's second quarter numbers less than stellar.

On Friday, AnnTaylor (ANN) released its second-quarter numbers, and at first blush they seemed pretty impressive. The well-known apparel retailer reported a profit of approximately $29.3 million or $0.51 per share, as compared with $0.50 per share in the same period last year.

Not counting restructuring costs associated with location closings, earnings topped out at $0.54 per share - a hefty $0.05 north of what analysts had been looking for.
A closer look at the quarter reveals that the New York-based company bought back about 2.6 million shares, and that total repurchases for the first 2 quarters of the year come to some 4.1 million shares.
Repurchase programs send a signal to the Street that a company's board thinks its stock is undervalued. However, by my math, if AnnTaylor was running on the same number of shares it reported in the same period last year, it would have earned about $0.46 - which, in my book, isn't quite as exciting.
AnnTaylor's comp store sales were also down 10.8% during the quarter. While it's not the end of the world, it was going up against an easy comparison: In last year's second quarter, the company reported a comp-store decline of 6.2%.
To be fair, I suppose one could argue that these results aren't totally out of line: For example, Gap (GPS), which released earnings earlier in the week, reported a second-quarter comp-store decline of 10%. Talbots' (TLB) second-quarter numbers are due out on the 27th, so we'll see what happens there.
On the plus side, AnnTaylor did say that, not counting restructuring costs, it expects to earn "in the range of $1.80 to $1.90." That's essentially consistent with the $1.82 that the Street is currently estimating. It also said, however, that it's looking for earnings of $0.50 to $0.55 in the third quarter - which is a bit of a disappointment, given that the investment community was reportedly expecting $0.65.
So, while I like Ann Taylor, I think I'd rather wait for third-quarter results and further guidance, and get a glimpse of what the company expects going into next year before hopping aboard. I just think there will be a better entry point to be had down the road.
On Friday AnnTaylor closed at $24.54, up $0.25, or 1.03%.
No positions in stocks mentioned.

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