Women's clothing specialist bebe
For the quarter, bebe reported diluted earnings per share of $0.21, up 133.3% from the same quarter a year ago. Net sales increased 47% to $136.9 million and same-store sales rose 34.2% on top of last year's gain of 9%.
The company was just as strong for the year. Diluted earnings per share were up 86.8%, net sales grew 36.9% to $509.5 million, and comps were up 25.7%.
Bebe obviously avoided the pitfalls plaguing other retailers and didn't even mention the favorite excuse of many: rising oil costs. So if all is well for bebe, why has its stock been heading south since the news? It seems the Street is much more concerned about where bebe's going than where it's been. I can't say I blame investors for that one, particularly when the company has been such a highflier that must constantly adjust with the latest fashion trends to try to keep up its torrid pace.
Let's see what bebe said about its future that scared off investors. First, it announced that it expects same-store sales growth for the first quarter of 2006 in the low 20s. I don't know about you, but I'd say that sounds pretty impressive. I'm willing to bet that wasn't the reason for the sell-off.
Next, the company said it expects inventory to increase by 10% to 15% in the first quarter. This can mean one of two things. Bebe could be expecting to have trouble moving its merchandise. But the fact that it is predicting more than 20% same-store sales growth seems to imply that's not the case. More likely, it is anticipating continued strength in sales and wants to ensure it has sufficient merchandise on hand. This involves a bit of risk should sales slow, which would leave bebe with too much merchandise it would then have to mark down. It's still not a reason to sell the stock.
Finally, the company announced its guidance for its first quarter. It expects diluted earnings per share of $0.14 to $0.17. Analysts were already expecting earnings of $0.17 per share. That was enough to override the plethora of outstanding news bebe had reported.
This has been a recurring theme for bebe. It completes a strong quarter, only to provide disappointing guidance and watch its stock take a hit. But each time it bounces back and the stock grows, splits, and grows some more. It's gone from single digits to the mid-20s in the last year. Now, I'm not suggesting the company is intentionally keeping expectations down, but if it is so confident about its growth potential, why not show that in its guidance?
I can't get a good feel for what this company is all about. I do know that with its high valuation, any negative news causes the stock to fall. One day, it's not going to be able to bounce back. I've said it before, and was wrong, but this stock is just too trendy for me.
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Fool contributor Mike Cianciolo welcomes feedback and doesn't own shares of bebe.