April 11, 2019 / 1:54 PM / a year ago

Bed Bath and Beyond sinks as doubts around turnaround linger

(Reuters) - Shares of Bed Bath and Beyond fell about 10 percent in early trading, after the home furnishing retailer forecast dismal first-quarter profits that raised doubts on the efficacy of its turnaround plan.

FILE PHOTO: A Bed Bath & Beyond store logo is pictured on a building in Boca Raton, Florida March 19, 2016. REUTERS/Carlo Allegri/File Photo

The company expects current quarter same-store sales to fall between 5 and 6 percent.

This, after the retailer said its turnaround initiatives including its experimental store formats, investments in its decorative furnishing business and digital platforms would drive its revenue growth and gross margin in mid and long term.

“(Q1) comp outlook (is) the largest rate of decline in the company’s history,” said Telsey Advisory Group analyst Cristina Fernandez. The retailer also reported its first annual sales decline since it went public in 1992.

Bed Bath and Beyond has been struggling to boost sales in the face of changing consumer preferences toward online furniture retailers such as Wayfair Inc. It is, in fact, under pressure from a trio of activist investors to put things in order and replace its chief executive officer.

Comparable sales in fourth quarter fell 1.4 percent, below analysts’ expectations, hurt by mid-single digit drop in sales at its brick and mortar stores which overshadowed strong growth from digital channels.

“Shares are down as investors digest the reality that a sustained trend of declines in brick & mortar (comparable sales) ...suggest an inflection in fundamentals is not in the near-term horizon,” said Jefferies analyst Jonathan Matuszewski.

“The transformation plan sounds reasonable, though transparency issues are lingering and execution remains the big question mark,” Matuszewski added.

Though the company raised its full-year profit guidance, analysts pointed out that profitability is coming at the cost of sales growth.

Wedbush analyst Seth Basham hiked his price target by $5 to $19, but kept a “neutral” rating on the stock, citing the company’s “murky medium-term fundamental outlook and no clear path to more material activist-driven change.”

Bed bath and Beyond has a median price target of $18 and median rating of “hold” on the stock.

Short interest in the stock has climbed to a more than five-year high, representing about 35 percent of the company’s free float, according to Refinitiv data.

Shares of Bed Bath and Beyond have risen about 40 percent since the activist investor group comprising Legion Partners Asset Management LLC, Macellum Advisors GP LLC and Ancora Advisors LLC disclosed a combined stake of about 5 stake in the company.

Reporting by Soundarya J in Bengaluru; Editing by Shinjini Ganguli

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