Shares of Victoria's Secret owner L Brands (NYSE:LB) are soaring on angel wings, up 13.3% as of 11 a.m. EST after The Wall Street Journal reported this morning that CEO Leslie Wexner is in talks to sell Victoria's Secret, retire from his post as L Brands' boss, or both.
L Brands stock and the S&P 500 have moved in opposite directions over the past year, with the S&P up 24% and L Brands stock down 26%. Sales are down, and profits along with them. For these reasons if no other, investors may be thinking that a change of management is in order.
Additionally, the Journal points out that activist investors including Barington Capital Group have been pushing L Brands to consider splitting off its fast growing Bath & Body Works consumer products brand from the weaker Pink and Victoria's Secret, probably by spinning off and selling the latter.
Last year, sales at the flagship Victoria's Secret business declined a fraction of a percent, while Bath & Body enjoyed nearly 12% sales growth. VS profits fell by roughly half, while Bath & Body operating profit was up 13% -- even better than sales growth.
Selling off VS (and maybe also Pink, a lingerie brand targeting teens and tweens) would instantly diminish L Brands' sales, but just as quickly lift its profit margin and provide a big cash influx that could be reinvested in growing the brand that's actually growing. It would, however, also deprive L Brands of any benefit that a buyer might reap from turning around the iconic Victoria's Secret.
Judging from today's price action, though, it looks like investors would be OK with that.