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Why Ascena Retail Group Inc. Stock Plunged Today

By Steve Symington - Jul 13, 2015 at 11:16AM

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Is Ascena's drop meaningful? Or just another movement?

What: Shares of Ascena Retail Group ( ASNA ) were down 14.4% as of 10:30 a.m. Monday after the company updated its fiscal 2015 outlook.

So what: Specifically, Ascena now expects full-year adjusted earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortization of $365 million to $375 million, and full-year adjusted earnings per diluted share from continuing operations of $0.57 to $0.60. Previously, Ascena Retail's guidance called for adjusted earnings per diluted share of $0.70 to $0.75. To blame, Ascena says, is its recent decision to accelerate its planned merchandise transition at Justice and to incorporate weaker-than-expected revenue performance at Justice and dressbarn.

Analysts, on average, were anticipating full-fiscal-year adjusted earnings of $0.70 per share.

In addition, Ascena anticipates during the current quarter it will take a non-cash, pre-tax goodwill and intangible asset impairment charge of $275 million to $325 million tied to Lane Bryant, as well $50 million for future settlement of a previously disclosed Justice class action lawsuit. These charges are not included in Ascena's freshly lowered guidance ranges.

Now what: "While we expected a challenging quarter at Justice due to the sell down of Spring/Summer merchandise coupled with a significant reduction in promotional activity," added Ascena CEO David Jaffe, "our revised fourth quarter expectation incorporates a more complete exit from the existing season's merchandise mix."

To Ascena's credit, Jaffe elaborated the move should result in a "cleaner selling floor and a well-communicated value proposition for the Fall season," and nicely position the company for a strong start to fiscal 2016.

Even so, considering dressbarn also didn't rebound as expected as well as the significant supplemental one-time charges above, I think the risk of continued weakness and market pessimism is too great for my investing taste. Until the company shows true signs of progress in turning around its weak businesses, I'm content watching Ascena Retail stock from the sidelines.

This article represents the opinion of the writer, who may disagree with the “official” recommendation position of a Motley Fool premium advisory service. We’re motley! Questioning an investing thesis – even one of our own – helps us all think critically about investing and make decisions that help us become smarter, happier, and richer.

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