Tiffany (NYSE:TIF) missed both sales and earnings forecasts by a small margin for the quarter ended on Oct. 31. Nonetheless, the stock was rising by nearly 2% on Tuesday before the market open, as investors seemed focused on the jeweler's long-term picture rather than short-term financial figures. Let´s look at Tiffany's latest earnings report and the main takeaways for investors.
Shining in the Americas, losing luster in Asia
Worldwide net sales during the third quarter of fiscal 2014 rose 5% to $960 million, marginally below Wall Street's expectation for $969 million in net sales. On a constant exchange rate basis, global sales rose 7% and comparable-store sales increased by a healthy 4%.
Performance was quite strong in the Americas, with a 10% revenue spike to $459 million and an 11% jump in comparable-store sales, adjusted for currency fluctuations.
On the other hand, the Asia-Pacific region disappointed: Sales increased only 2% year over year to $741 million, while comparable-store sales declined 3% when measured in constant currency. Management said the company experienced noteworthy growth in China, but this was offset by mixed performance across other markets.
Political protests in Hong Kong have been a considerable headwind for companies in the region lately, and this likely had a sizable impact on Tiffany's performance during the quarter. Sales in the Asia-Pacific decelerated considerably versus a whopping 14% revenue increase in the region during the preceding quarter.
Sales in Japan declined 12% to $113 million in the third quarter. Comparable-store sales in constant currency fell 6%, which management attributed to weak demand after a surge in consumer spending before an increase in Japan's consumption tax on April 1.
Total sales in Europe increased 9% during the quarter, while comparable-store sales in constant currency grew 2%.
Tiffany opened a freestanding store in Tokyo during the quarter. As of Oct. 31, the company operated a total of 294 stores: 122 in the Americas, 72 in the Asia-Pacific, 56 in Japan, 38 in Europe, five in the United Arab Emirates, and one in Russia.
Sparkling profit margin
Gross profit margin came in at 59.2% of revenue, up from 57% of sales in the same quarter last year. This increase in profitability was driven by favorable product costs and price increases across all product categories and regions, as well as a marked shift in product sales mix toward the higher-margin fashion jewelry category.
Pricing power is a crucial factor to consider when it comes to high-end brands, and Tiffany's ability to deliver expanding profit margins is a big positive for investors .
Selling, general, and administrative expenses increased 10% in the quarter, primarily due to increased marketing spending, as well as labor and other store-related costs. Still, increased gross margin translated into a higher operating profit margin -- roughly 17.6% of sales during the quarter versus 16.9% of revenue in the same period last year.
Reported earnings declined 60% to $38 million, compared with $95 million in the last fiscal year's third quarter. However, this figure includes a $94 million loss on the extinguishing of debt related to prepaying $400 million of long-term debt during the quarter.
Excluding that nonrecurring loss, net earnings rose 5% to $99 million during the quarter. Earnings per share came in at $0.76, $0.01 below analysts' forecast of $0.77 for the quarter.
Management reaffirmed its guidance for the full fiscal year ending on Jan. 31, 2015. Excluding debt extinguishing charges, the company expects earnings per share to be in the range of $4.20 to $4.30 on the back of a mid to high single-digit percentage increase in sales. Wall Street analysts on average forecast $4.34 in earnings per share for the year, according to data compiled by Thomson Reuters.
Moving forward, things look quite shiny for investors in Tiffany stock. The slowdown in Asia seems to be mostly due to economic weakness and other external conditions, while sales in the Americas remain remarkably strong. The company is also flexing its pricing muscle and delivering expanding profit margin for investors, which speaks wonders about Tiffany's competitive differentiation.
It was not Tiffany's most explosive quarter, but looking long-term, the business looks quite healthy.
Andrés Cardenal has no position in any stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool has no position in any of the stocks mentioned. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.