J.C. Penney Surges, Francesca's Holdings Plunges: Retail Roundup

NEW YORK ( TheStreet) -- Retail sector stocks were somewhat mixed on Wednesday, as the broader market remained cautious as concerns over Syria persisted.

The S&P Retail Select Industry Index rose 0.35% to 4045.01 early Wednesday.

One of the biggest movers Wednesday morning was Francesca's Holdings ( FRAN). The stock plunged 25% to $18.32, hitting a new 52-week-low following the boutique retailer's disappointing second-quarter results and weak outlook.

Francesca's reported net income of $14.6 million, or diluted earnings a share of 33 cents, missing consensus earnings estimates of 35 cents a share. Net sales rose 17% to $89.3 million, but fell short of the $94.9 million expected by analysts. Comparable sales also fell 1% in the quarter.

"While we posted high teens increases in second quarter and year to date sales and earnings, our second quarter sales performance was softer than we anticipated," Francesca's CEO Neill P. Davis said in the earnings statement. "We were able to maintain strong profitability with operating income margins only modestly below the prior year levels. Our performance in the quarter reflects the anniversary of very strong rates of growth in the prior year; lower levels of customer traffic most evident in the later part of the second quarter and the lack of a dominant apparel fashion trend."

The company expects third-quarter net sales to range between $78 million and $80 million, which assumes a decreased in total sales of 2% to 5% compared to the prior year's increase of 17%. Earnings per diluted share are expected to be in the range of 19 cents to 21 cents a share. Wall Street was expecting earnings of 30 cents a share for the third quarter.

Full-year adjusted earnings per share are expected to be in the range of $1.10 to $1.16, the company said.

J.C. Penney ( JCP) jumped 5.4% to $13.41 continuing its rise from Tuesday.

Goldman Sachs analysts resumed coverage of the stock on Wednesday, rating the company "neutral."

Hedge funds have been taking up or adding positions in the troubled retailer's stock following last month's Bill Ackman-JCP showdown, in which Ackman attempted to garner support to remove CEO Mike Ullman and Chairman Tom Engibous.

The public battle ended with Ackman resigning from J.C. Penney's board of directors and now in the process of selling his entire 18% stake.

As a result of the fight, J.C. Penney also implemented a so-called poison pill, making it very difficult for any future investors to own more than 10% of the company's common stock.

On Tuesday, Kyle Bass of Hayman Capital Management revealed in a Securities and Exchange Commission filing that the firm owns a 11.4 million shares, or a 5.2% passive stake, in the troubled retailer.

Later in the day, Glenview Capital Management said in a filing that it more than doubled its ownership of J.C. Penney shares. The hedge fund now owns 20.1 million shares, or a 9.1% stake, of J.C. Penney. According to its more recent 13F filing with the SEC, Glenview owned about 8.4 million shares.

Glenview is now the largest shareholder in J.C. Penney shares.

Also see: J.C. Penney Drops as Ackman Selling Stake

Dollar General ( DG) shares were surging following an earnings beat. The stock was up 4.4% to $56.24.

The discount store said net income rose by 15% to $245 million, or 75 cents a share. Adjusted net income was $251 million, or 77 cents a share. Wall Street had expected the company to post earnings of 74 cents a share.

Net sales rose 11.3% to $4.39 billion in the second quarter, with same-store sales up 5.1%, with increases in both customer traffic and average transaction value, Dollar General says.

Shares of Jarden ( JAH) were down 2.4% to $46.29. The company is undergoing a public offering of 11.6 million shares, it said Wednesday, following its announcement Tuesday that it plans to acquire Yankee Candle from Madison Dearborn for $1.75 billion.

-- Written by Laurie Kulikowski in New York.

To contact Laurie Kulikowski, send an email to: Laurie.Kulikowski@thestreet.com.

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