Why Blackhawk Network Holdings, Inc. Shares Dove Today

Although we don't believe in timing the market or panicking over market movements, we do like to keep an eye on big changes -- just in case they're material to our investing thesis.

What: Shares of Blackhawk Network Holdings, (NASDAQ: HAWK  ) plunged 20% Thursday after the company posted solid fourth-quarter results, but followed with disappointing forward guidance. In addition, Blackhawk announced that Safeway has decided to distribute the remaining Blackhawk shares it owns.

So what: Adjusted quarterly revenue grew 21% year over year, to $540.7 million, which translated to an 11% increase in adjusted earnings per share, to $1.09. Analysts, on average, were looking for earnings of just $0.84 per share on sales of $539.15 million.

Blackhawk also told investors during the subsequent conference call that it expects 2014 adjusted net income per share in the range of $1.19 to $1.24. Analysts, on average, were expecting 2014 earnings of $1.39 per share.

Perhaps most disconcerting, however, was Blackhawk's announcement that Safeway has chosen to distribute the remaining 37.8 shares of Blackhawk it owns to Safeway shareholders. For reference, that represents around 72.2% of outstanding Blackhawk shares. The exact timing of the distribution is yet to be decided.

Now what: In anticipation of Safeway's move, Blackhawk is currently negotiating a credit agreement of up to $475 million. This includes a $175 million four-year term loan, and revolving credit facility of up to $200 million with up to an additional $100 million available during the crucial year-end holiday period.

This could signal trouble if it means Safeway -- which spun off Blackhawk in a $230 million IPO last April -- wants to move away from Blackhawk's payment products and toward its own remaining solutions.

Taking the midpoint of Blackhawk's guidance, shares still don't look particularly cheap to me trading around 18.4 times this year's expected earnings. As it stands, and especially given the added uncertainty surrounding the Safeway distribution, I think investors would be wise to steer clear until the dust settles.

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