You know how they say that in comedy "timing is everything"? Well, it seems the same thing's true for tragedy.
Yesterday, as stock markets around the world bled red, one sector above all others outperformed: "specialty retailers." Lauded in a weekend issue of Barron's as ripe for private equity buyouts, it seemed any company that could conceivably call itself a "specialty retailer" saw its stock surge on Tuesday. Home Depot
The buyout speculation was so widespread that even niche retailer, Motley Fool Stock Advisor recommendation and pet supplies specialist PetSmart
But what went up soon came down. Minutes after markets closed, PetSmart PetSmote itself with an earnings warning, costing the stock all its gains and more in after-hours trading. (Adding insult to injury, PetSmart's virtual peer PetMed Express
Citing "relatively weak sales during the later half of November and the majority of December," PetSmart CEO Philip Francis warned that he now believes same-store sales will rise at most 1%, and could even be flat year over year. Blaming the "challenging consumer environment," Francis admitted that PetSmart will not likely get anywhere near its previous profits prediction ($2.05 to $2.09 per share, including $0.48 worth of one-time gains). Instead, $1.98 is the new high projection, and the low is $1.94.
Goodbye, good fortune
Well, so much for PetSmart joining its "special" compadres in the relief rally. But where does that leave potential buyers?
As much as I'd like to be able to tell you, "It's time to fetch yourself some PetSmart shares," I just can't. You see, while the shares look attractively priced at first glance (12 P/E, 17% projected growth -- that's a no-brainer, right?) the fact of the matter is that we can't forget the one-time nature of the $0.48 gain on sale from Q1 2007. Subtract that out, and at best you've got $1.50 in "normalized earnings" this year, which by my calculations makes about a 14 P/E stock.
Don't get me wrong; that's still a good price for a 17% grower. But I'm wary it's a growth rate this retailer may not be able to master.
PetSmart, Bed Bath & Beyond, and American Eagle are Stock Advisor recommendations. Home Depot is an Inside Value selection. The Motley Fool owns shares of American Eagle and Bed Bath & Beyond. Take a free 30-day trial of any of the Fool's newsletters.