WR Hambrecht



(WSM) - Get Report

move to appoint Dale Hilpert as chief executive "very positive news for the company."

While the firm said the appointment of Hilpert will help Williams-Sonoma regain credibility with the investment community, Hambrecht doesn't expect immediate results.

The firm held its neutral rating on Williams-Sonoma, saying it was comfortable with its estimate of 75 cents in the fourth quarter, down from the 82 cents in the year-ago period. The company has projected earnings of 75 cents to 80 cents a share. Williams-Sonoma is scheduled to report earnings in mid-March.

"We maintain our current 2001 EPS estimate of $1.25, but we lack confidence in our estimate as we await better visibility," the firm wrote in a research note. "The company is faced with tough year-ago comp sales comparisons in the first half -- 9% and 7.1% for (the first and second quarters of 2001) respectively, which keeps us on the sidelines for the near-term."

The firm said that while the new chief executive is a "step in the right direction," it has concerns about merchandise issues and will remain cautious on Williams-Sonoma until it receives better guidance from the company.

Shares of Williams-Sonoma gained $2, or 8%, to $26.90 at the end of

New York Stock Exchange




(Z) - Get Report

named Matthew D. Serra president and chief executive to

replace Hilpert, who resigned to join housewares retailer Williams-Sonoma. J. Carter Bacot took over as nonexecutive chairman of Venator.