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Why Office Depot Stock Plunged 20.1% in December

By Steve Symington - Updated Apr 15, 2019 at 10:56PM

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The office supply retailer dropped along with the broader market. But don't take that to mean its turnaround is in jeopardy.

Check out the latest Office Depot earnings call transcript.

What happened

Shares of Office Depot (ODP 3.07%) fell 20.1% in December, according to data from S&P Global Market Intelligence, all but giving up their recent post-earnings gains as the broader market pulled back.

To be clear, there were no negative press releases, Securities and Exchange Commission filings, or analyst downgrades that typically cause such declines. But the office supply retailer was hit particularly hard after coupling the S&P 500's 9% decline last month with the fact that its stock had only just soared 26% in November after third-quarter results just barely exceeded expectations.

Stock market prices with red and green arrows on an LED display

Image source: Getty Images.

So what

That's not to say there was no news last month. On Dec. 12, Office Depot announced it has become a certified installation partner for Google and Nest smart-home devices, creating another way for the company to cash in on the fast-growing smart-home space.

But while every little bit helps, that was hardly enough to cement the success of Office Depot's ongoing turnaround as the company shifts its focus to its business solutions segment (which includes online sales) to offset the impact of store closures and declining retail revenue. Shares were understandably little changed in response to the news.

Now what

Office Depot's current outlook is for 2019 revenue to rise around 0.9% from 2018, to $11.1 billion, which should translate to similarly modest increases in adjusted EBITDA (to $575 million) and adjusted operating income (to $375 million). The company also expects to generate free cash flow of around $350 million this year.

Long-term investors can also take some solace knowing that, shortly after its November report, Office Depot was able to leverage its momentum and cash flow to reduce the borrowing rate on its term loan, lower its outstanding debt by $200 million, and authorize a $100-million share repurchase plan -- the last of which management could have used to take advantage of the December decline if it so chose.

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