Soros Lifts J.C. Penney's Spirits

Don't let it get away!

Keep track of the stocks that matter to you.

Help yourself with the Fool's FREE and easy new watchlist service today.

Since the very public ousting of CEO Ron Johnson, J.C. Penney (NYSE: JCP  ) bulls (including this author) have been quietly licking their wounds, telling themselves that this is a moment of faith and that their stock-picking abilities do not resemble the "Wheel of Fortune" letter-selection process. On April 10, investor extraordinaire Bill Ackman said he has no plans to dump his 17.8% stake in the company and may even dig in deeper. That particular vote of confidence, given the wide range of opinions surrounding the hedge fund manager, did little to soothe investors' and analysts' concerns.

This past week, though, that all changed. Another superinvestor has gotten behind J.C. Penney, and this time it sent the stock soaring. Does George Soros' 8% position in the company ease your fears about that beleaguered retailer?

A megainvestor's word probably would have meant more five years ago than it does today. Since star fund managers have taken to the silver screen to tout their positions, their credibility has suffered a bit. Take Ackman, for example. Personally, I remain a strong believer in his positions and point to some incredible successes that, in my opinion, overshadow the failures -- Burger King being one of them. Though it hasn't received much media attention, Burger King was reorganized a year ago and brought back out from under the private equity wing with a refreshed menu and a more appealing, modern image. Since the stock debuted (in its most recent incarnation) last summer, it has ticked up more than 20%. Still, all of the media attention Ackman has garnered with his J.C. Penney and Herbalife bets has left many unconcerned and, perhaps, unimpressed with "smart money" movements. David Einhorn, Nelson Peltz, Carl Icahn, and other famous activists have investors similarly skeptical.

With that in mind, it was interesting to see J.C. Penney stock soar nearly 15% during Friday's trading after it was announced late Thursday that famed investor and political activist George Soros had taken a nearly 8% stake in the troubled retailer, whose sales hit rock-bottom in the recent quarter. The stock is much cheaper than when Ackman built his stake, but should investors so quickly restore their faith in the company?

The pros, speculatively
One of the biggest concerns lately regarding J.C. Penney is liquidity. The company spent a bundle under Johnson's reign, with minimal cash flow to refill the coffer. But now, Goldman Sachs has announced it is leading a $1.75 billion financing round for the company -- effectively erasing the short-term liquidity crisis.

Also, I've exhaustively touted the success in the company's renovated spaces, and I still believe in them. If J.C. Penney can reconnect with the customer and make good on its prior missteps, the true genius of Johnson's plan can once again take center stage. If and when that happens, watch as the financials about-face.

As for this moment, though, the latter is a speculative consideration and should be treated as such. Mike Ullman is back in the C-suite and has publicly committed to getting back in touch with J.C. Penney's alienated customer. But as we have learned from plenty of CEO, analyst, and fund manager promises, the real proof is in the numbers.

I wouldn't follow Soros in on J.C. Penney, but I wouldn't cast it out yet, either. This story isn't quite done.

More from The Motley Fool 
J.C. Penney's stock cratered under Ron Johnson's leadership, but could new CEO Mike Ullman present the opportunity investors have been waiting for? If you're wondering whether J.C. Penney is a buy today, you're invited to claim a copy of The Motley Fool's must-read report on the company. Learn everything you need to know about J.C. Penney's turnaround -- or lack thereof. Simply click here now for instant access.

Read/Post Comments (0) | Recommend This Article (1)

Comments from our Foolish Readers

Help us keep this a respectfully Foolish area! This is a place for our readers to discuss, debate, and learn more about the Foolish investing topic you read about above. Help us keep it clean and safe. If you believe a comment is abusive or otherwise violates our Fool's Rules, please report it via the Report this Comment Report this Comment icon found on every comment.

Be the first one to comment on this article.

Compare Brokers

Fool Disclosure

Sponsored Links

Leaked: Apple's Next Smart Device
(Warning, it may shock you)
The secret is out... experts are predicting 458 million of these types of devices will be sold per year. 1 hyper-growth company stands to rake in maximum profit - and it's NOT Apple. Show me Apple's new smart gizmo!

DocumentId: 2395631, ~/Articles/ArticleHandler.aspx, 10/1/2016 10:20:34 AM

Report This Comment

Use this area to report a comment that you believe is in violation of the community guidelines. Our team will review the entry and take any appropriate action.

Sending report...

Today's Market

updated 13 hours ago Sponsored by:
DOW 18,308.15 164.70 0.91%
S&P 500 2,168.27 17.14 0.80%
NASD 5,312.00 42.85 0.81%

Create My Watchlist

Go to My Watchlist

You don't seem to be following any stocks yet!

Better investing starts with a watchlist. Now you can create a personalized watchlist and get immediate access to the personalized information you need to make successful investing decisions.

Data delayed up to 5 minutes

Related Tickers

9/30/2016 4:03 PM
JCP $9.22 Down -0.03 -0.32%
J.C. Penney CAPS Rating: *