At Least One Analyst Still Has Faith in J.C. Penney (JCP)

NEW YORK (TheStreet) -- Investors were feeling skittish on J.C.Penney (JCP) over Wednesday's session but at least one investment research firm still has faith in a turnaround. Piper Jaffray has upgraded the stock to "overweight" from "neutral" with a price target of $11 on the belief 2014 will be a year of progress for the company. 

On Wednesday, the retailer closed 10% lower after releasing few details on its holiday sales performance. In a brief two-paragraph statement, the Plano, Texas-based business said it was pleased with its performance over the holiday sales period and reaffirmed its outlook for the fourth quarter ended January, 2014.

"Customers responded well to the company's offerings this holiday shopping season, both in store and online," J.C. Penney said in its statement.

The clipped release, while not saying much, spoke volumes on concerns of whether a turnaround is taking place. 

In pre-market trading Thursday, the retailer is gaining ground, gaining 3.7% to $7.64.

TheStreet Ratings team rates PENNEY (J C) CO as a Sell with a ratings score of D. The team has this to say about their recommendation:

"We rate PENNEY (J C) CO (JCP) a SELL. This is driven by multiple weaknesses, which we believe should have a greater impact than any strengths, and could make it more difficult for investors to achieve positive results compared to most of the stocks we cover. The company's weaknesses can be seen in multiple areas, such as its feeble growth in its earnings per share, deteriorating net income, generally high debt management risk, disappointing return on equity and poor profit margins."

Highlights from the analysis by TheStreet Ratings Team goes as follows:

  • The debt-to-equity ratio is very high at 2.12 and currently higher than the industry average, implying increased risk associated with the management of debt levels within the company. Along with this, the company manages to maintain a quick ratio of 0.36, which clearly demonstrates the inability to cover short-term cash needs.
  • Return on equity has greatly decreased when compared to its ROE from the same quarter one year prior. This is a signal of major weakness within the corporation. Compared to other companies in the Multiline Retail industry and the overall market, PENNEY (J C) CO's return on equity significantly trails that of both the industry average and the S&P 500.
  • The gross profit margin for PENNEY (J C) CO is currently lower than what is desirable, coming in at 29.47%. It has decreased from the same quarter the previous year. Along with this, the net profit margin of -17.59% is significantly below that of the industry average.
  • Net operating cash flow has significantly decreased to -$737.00 million or 1502.17% when compared to the same quarter last year. In addition, when comparing to the industry average, the firm's growth rate is much lower.
  • PENNEY (J C) CO has experienced a steep decline in earnings per share in the most recent quarter in comparison to its performance from the same quarter a year ago. Earnings per share have declined over the last two years. We anticipate that this should continue in the coming year. During the past fiscal year, PENNEY (J C) CO reported poor results of -$4.49 versus -$0.73 in the prior year. For the next year, the market is expecting a contraction of 35.2% in earnings (-$6.07 versus -$4.49).

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