American Eagle & Laura Ashley, winning duoThursday, 13 September 2012
American Eagle Outfitters positively surprised its investors
Wednesday with an special dividend of 1.50 dollars. “The special cash dividend is a component of our capital allocation plan, which balances continued investment in our business with top tier shareholder returns,” CEO of the company said in Wednesday’s statement.
American Eagle rose 3.3 percent to 23.46 dollars at the close in Wall Street, the highest closing price since Feb. 1, 2008, reported ‘Bloomberg’, noting that it was the biggest one-day increase since Aug. 22, when the company reported second-quarter earnings. American Eagle has gained 53 percent this year while net sales in the first half rose 14 percent to 1.45 billion dollars.
In a note to clients, Margaret Whitfield – analyst at Sterne, Agee & Leach, said that American Eagle said last week that its strategy includes delivering top-tier shareholder returns, adding that the special dividend is "clearly a step in that direction." Also, she added that it is possible the retailer will have more special dividends and buybacks in the future, as it works on improving its revenue and margins, increases the number of outlet stores and closely manages inventory. She maintained a "Buy" rating and 27 dollars price target.
Meanwhile, its American peer The Gap Inc. (GPS) got a reaffirming clap on the back from analysts at Jefferies & Co. The firm reiterated its “Buy” rating and 45 dollars price target. A Jefferies analyst commented , “GPS is hiring former J.C. Penney (NYSE: JCP) president, Michael Francis, as Marketing Creative Advisor starting next week. We view this as yet another hire that strengthens the overall management team. We believe GPS’s increased focus on product and marketing is resonating with the consumer and expect more investment on the marketing side will have positive results.” The stock rose 1,1% (37 cents) in premarket trading Wednesday.
Elsewhere, luxury handbags maker Coach (COH) was weighted by Tuesday’s luxe stocks debacle and was downgraded to "hold" from "buy" at Brean Murray Carret ahead of the opening bell. "While we continue to believe the company's management is among the strongest in retailing, we are hard pressed to pay almost 15X next FY EPS for a play that does not involve cotton or pricing flexibility and where we are finishing a quarter (September 2012) where we believe it will be difficult for Coach to demonstrate material momentum, especially against their perceived competition," the brokerage wrote in a note.
Finally, in the UK, Laura Ashley added 1.4 pennies, or 6 percent to 24.25 pennies in early London trade this morning after announcing half-year profits had improved by 14percent. First-half sales increased 8 percent to 145 million pounds. Also, UK retail sales had advanced 6 percent and online revenue surged 21 percent.