How does a company report earnings that were $0.27 per share lower than expectations and the stock still rises 5%? Well, if you're good-wish-maven American Greetings
American Greetings reported its first-quarter earnings today and included a little after-tax surprise in the envelope. The consensus earnings estimate was $0.33 a share, and the company would have received a congratulations card (rather than a "Get Well Soon" message) if it had excluded after-tax debt restructuring costs. Excluding the costs, which will reduce interest expense and enhance the company's "strategic and financial flexibility," the company's earnings would have been $28.1 million (vs. $22.5 million and $0.28 per share last year).
In response to this debt restructuring (and subsequent drop in after-tax earnings), the company reduced its earnings guidance to a range of $1.46 to $1.51 per share from $1.63 to $1.68 per share. In reality, this new guidance will produce a higher quality of earnings due to the cost benefits from the restructuring.
The popular marker of social expressions also expects a breakeven second quarter, which would be a radical improvement from the loss of $0.08 that was previously anticipated. The second quarter is usually the company's slowest quarter due to the highly seasonal nature of the greeting card and related items business.
American Greetings' accomplishments in the first quarter came in the face of weak sales. The traditional greeting card makers such as Hallmark and American Greetings are battling a wave of Internet electronic cards. These e-cards are threatening to replace their traditional paper counterparts, although there are still many people who prefer to handwrite their message rather than send it over the Internet. Electronic greeting cards have become so popular that American Greetings also offers them for free on its website; other companies, such as Hallmark, Blue Mountain, USAGreetings, as well as Yahoo!
When compared to next year's earnings estimate of $1.90 per share, American Greeting's shares are trading at an attractive multiple of 12 times. With earnings growth exceeding that P/E multiple over the next few years, and the firm getting its fiscal house in better order, the company appears to be in good shape.
Fool contributor Phil Wohl spent more than 12 years on Wall Street and now concentrates his writing on more fictional characters. He has no stake in any firm mentioned above.