After Hanson's Resignation, Is American Eagle a Strong Buy?

"Be fearful when others are greedy and greedy when others are fearful." That is the mantra that Warren Buffett is best known by and the very same concept that helped propel him to riches. In the case of American Eagle, investors are more scared than ever now that the company's CEO has retired. But is this an opportune moment to buy in?

Jan 27, 2014 at 1:29PM

Last Thursday was a rough day for shareholders of American Eagle Outfitters (NYSE:AEO). After announcing that the company's CEO, Robert Hanson, would be leaving immediately, shares fell as much as 10.6% before closing down 7.8%.

While the abrupt departure of a CEO can be chalked up to any number of reasons, it usually serves as a warning sign that something bad is happening at a company. However, after announcing Hanson's resignation and reaffirming American Eagle's fourth-quarter forecast, is it possible that Mr. Market is overreacting to the news?

Fourth-quarter results are expected to be weak
For American Eagle's fourth quarter, the company has forewarned investors that it's risky to expect much out of it. If management's prediction turns out to be right, then earnings per share will likely come in around $0.26, which represents the lower end of the $0.26 to $0.30 range previously forecast by the company. If this weren't bad enough, when you compare these results to the $0.47 the company reported the same quarter a year earlier, the situation looks depressing.

In part, the lackluster forecast for the fourth quarter is attributable to a poor holiday season for the retailer. In its holiday season update, American Eagle's management announced that revenue fell 2.4% from $904 million to $882 million for the nine weeks ending Jan. 4. Although this doesn't look like a steep decline, the primary driver behind the fall in revenue came from a 7% drop in comparable- store sales.

American Eagle is flying into unknown territory
Declining sales and profits is something that isn't really known to American Eagle. For instance, over the past four years, the company has been growing at a nice clip and has benefited from the higher profitability that accompanied this growth. Over this time frame, revenue at the retailer rose 18.2% from $2.9 billion to about $3.5 billion. While this isn't as strong as the 54% leap in revenue experienced by Abercrombie & Fitch (NYSE:ANF), it puts the 7% rise reported by Aeropostale (NYSE:ARO) to shame.

In terms of profitability, American Eagle performed even better. Between 2009 and 2012, the company's net income rose an impressive 37.3% from $169 million to $232.1 million. In its most recent annual report, the company claimed that the primary driver behind increased sales was its rise in comparable-store sales. From 2010 to 2011, the retailer's comparable-store sales rose 4% followed up by a 9% rise in comparable-store sales between 2011 and 2012.

But yet again, American Eagle fell in the middle of the pack. Over the same time frame, Aeropostale saw its net income deteriorate significantly. From 2009 through 2012, Aeropostale's net income fell a jaw-dropping 84.8% from $229.5 million to $34.9 million. The precipitous fall in the company's net income was driven by a 29.9% jump in its cost of goods sold coupled with a 14.1% rise in selling, general, and administrative expenses. These two factors drove down profits even though revenue ticked up marginally.

On the other side of the coin we have Abercrombie. Between 2009 and 2012, net income skyrocketed from $0.3 million to $232.1 million (it's not even fair at that point to put it as a percentage increase because of how sad Aeropostale and American Eagle would feel). This improvement in Abercrombie's bottom line arose in spite of a 62.1% rise in revenue and was due to a much smaller 38.4% rise in the company's selling, general, and administrative expenses.

Historically, the situation at American Eagle has been nice but far from ideal. The business grew at a reasonable pace and posted continued improvements over the past few years, but this was all but washed away during 2013. During the first three quarters of the year, the business experienced a 4% decline in revenue and a 47.2% falloff in net income. This reversal of fortune is inexplicable but universal. Over this time frame, the company announced that the fall is sales was due to lower traffic, fewer transactions, and lower-priced transactions.

Foolish takeaway
Moving forward, American Eagle has a lot of work cut out for it. Obviously, for shareholders who are patient and who believe in the company's future, the upside could be huge, but it does carry certain risks with it. The primary risk on investors' minds is: what kind of problem or problems exist at the company that could cause its CEO to abruptly resign?

In theory, the explanation could be anything from fraud, to poor financials, to personal reasons, but until shareholders find out more about the matter, they have a right to be cautious. At this point in time, even the most adamant shareholders should be keeping an eye out for anything that could signal a further deterioration in business, but that shouldn't keep you away from investing in the company per se. Rather, for those who believe shares are significantly undervalued, now might be the best time to take advantage of Mr. Market's fear.

What other retailer are seeing success?
Right now, American Eagle looks to be on the precipice of prosperity and doom.  However, it is possible that business can improve, in which case it might earn shareholders a hefty return.  But, is it one of the best long-term retail plays on the market?  To learn about two retailers with especially good prospects, take a look at The Motley Fool's special free report: "The Death of Wal-Mart: The Real Cash Kings Changing the Face of Retail." In it, you'll see how these two cash kings are able to consistently outperform and how they're planning to ride the waves of retail's changing tide. You can access it by clicking here.

Daniel Jones has no position in any stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool has no position in any of the stocks mentioned. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.

1 Key Step to Get Rich

Our mission at The Motley Fool is to help the world invest better. Whether that’s helping people overcome their fear of stocks all the way to offering clear and successful guidance on complicated-sounding options trades, we can help.

Feb 1, 2016 at 4:54PM

To be perfectly clear, this is not a get-rich action that my Foolish colleagues and I came up with. But we wouldn't argue with the approach.

A 2015 Business Insider article titled, "11 websites to bookmark if you want to get rich" rated The Motley Fool as the #1 place online to get smarter about investing.

"The Motley Fool aims to build a strong investment community, which it does by providing a variety of resources: the website, books, a newspaper column, a radio [show], and [newsletters]," wrote (the clearly insightful and talented) money reporter Kathleen Elkins. "This site has something for every type of investor, from basic lessons for beginners to investing commentary on mutual funds, stock sectors, and value for the more advanced."

Our mission at The Motley Fool is to help the world invest better, so it's nice to receive that kind of recognition. It lets us know we're doing our job.

Whether that's helping the entirely uninitiated overcome their fear of stocks all the way to offering clear and successful guidance on complicated-sounding options trades, we want to provide our readers with a boost to the next step on their journey to financial independence.

Articles and beyond

As Business Insider wrote, there are a number of resources available from the Fool for investors of all levels and styles.

In addition to the dozens of free articles we publish every day on our website, I want to highlight two must-see spots in your tour of

For the beginning investor

Investing can seem like a Big Deal to those who have yet to buy their first stock. Many investment professionals try to infuse the conversation with jargon in order to deter individual investors from tackling it on their own (and to justify their often sky-high fees).

But the individual investor can beat the market. The real secret to investing is that it doesn't take tons of money, endless hours, or super-secret formulas that only experts possess.

That's why we created a best-selling guide that walks investors-to-be through everything they need to know to get started. And because we're so dedicated to our mission, we've made that available for free.

If you're just starting out (or want to help out someone who is), go to, drop in your email address, and you'll be able to instantly access the quick-read guide ... for free.

For the listener

Whether it's on the stationary exercise bike or during my daily commute, I spend a lot of time going nowhere. But I've found a way to make that time benefit me.

The Motley Fool offers five podcasts that I refer to as "binge-worthy financial information."

Motley Fool Money features a team of our analysts discussing the week's top business and investing stories, interviews, and an inside look at the stocks on our radar. It's also featured on several dozen radio stations across the country.

The hosts of Motley Fool Answers challenge the conventional wisdom on life's biggest financial issues to reveal what you really need to know to make smart money moves.

David Gardner, co-founder of The Motley Fool, is among the most respected and trusted sources on investing. And he's the host of Rule Breaker Investing, in which he shares his insights into today's most innovative and disruptive companies ... and how to profit from them.

Market Foolery is our daily look at stocks in the news, as well as the top business and investing stories.

And Industry Focus offers a deeper dive into a specific industry and the stories making headlines. Healthcare, technology, energy, consumer goods, and other industries take turns in the spotlight.

They're all informative, entertaining, and eminently listenable ... and I don't say that simply because the hosts all sit within a Nerf-gun shot of my desk. Rule Breaker Investing and Answers contain timeless advice, so you might want to go back to the beginning with those. The other three take their cues from the market, so you'll want to listen to the most recent first. All are available at

But wait, there's more

The book and the podcasts – both free ... both awesome – also come with an ongoing benefit. If you download the book, or if you enter your email address in the magical box at the podcasts page, you'll get ongoing market coverage sent straight to your inbox.

Investor Insights is valuable and enjoyable coverage of everything from macroeconomic events to investing strategies to our analyst's travels around the world to find the next big thing. Also free.

Get the book. Listen to a podcast. Sign up for Investor Insights. I'm not saying that any of those things will make you rich ... but Business Insider seems to think so.

Compare Brokers