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Why Shares of L Brands Inc. Are Down Today

By Timothy Green - May 5, 2016 at 12:00PM

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The retailer's Victoria's Secret brand is struggling, leading the company to fall short of analyst expectations.

Image source: L Brands.

What: Shares of specialty retailer L Brands (BBWI -3.75%) slumped on Thursday following the company's April sales report. At 11 a.m. ET, the stock was down about 10%.

So what: L Brands reported net sales of $737.5 million for April, up 2% year over year. This increase was driven in part by a 1% rise in comparable sales. The company also reported first-quarter sales results, with revenue of $2.614 billion up 4% year over year. Comparable sales grew 3%.

Analysts were expecting higher first-quarter sales, with the average estimate calling for $2.67 billion. Weakness at the company's Victoria's Secret stores, which suffered a 1% decline in comparable sales, dragged down results. Strength at Bath & Body Works, which enjoyed a 5% increase in comparable sales, wasn't enough for L Brands to meet expectations.

The company expects adjusted earnings for the first quarter to come in at the high end of its previous guidance range of $0.50 to $0.55.

Now what: 2015 was a record year for L Brands, with $12.15 billion of revenue and an operating margin of 18%. That's up from revenue of $10.36 billion and an operating margin of 11.9% in 2011. While much of the business has been performing well, Victoria's Secret has been a weak spot. In March, L Brands announced sweeping changes to that brand, including 200 layoffs, a renewed focus on core categories, and a shift away from traditional catalogues and offers.

Investors are punishing L Brands stock for weak guidance, but the company excluding Victoria's Secret appears to be performing well. We'll need a few more quarters of results before it's clear how serious the problems at Victoria's Secret truly are.

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