December 6, 2017 / 12:53 PM / 9 days ago

Hudson's Bay shares slump on bigger-than-expected quarterly loss

TORONTO (Reuters) - Hudson’s Bay Co (HBC.TO) on Wednesday reported its seventh consecutive quarterly loss, missing analyst estimates on lower retail sales in a brutal retail environment, putting its shares on track for their biggest one-day drop on record.

The shares plunged as much as 16 percent, and were trading down 14.9 percent at C$10.15 at 9:40 a.m. in Toronto (1440 GMT), compared with little change in the S&P 500 Retail index .SPXRT.

The owner of the Saks Fifth Avenue luxury retailer said comparable sales during the quarter were impacted by lower traffic, deeper discounts and the effects of the hurricanes in Texas, Florida and Puerto Rico.

“We are not satisfied with these results and know we can do better,” Ed Record, chief financial officer of the Toronto-based company, said on a teleconference.

The company has been under increasing pressure from activist investor Jonathan Litt to boost its sliding share price by extracting value from its substantial real estate holdings. He has called for the company to distance itself from a retail market in which brick-and-mortar store margins are shrinking and their market share eroded by nimble online operators.

The company’s margins shrank during the quarter due to more promotions and clearance sales, Record said on the call, adding it plans to reduce the need for such activity by holding less inventory.

Acknowledging that the company’s digital strategy is behind where it needs to be but is catching up, he said Hudson’s Bay plans to spend about a third of capital expenditure on its digital platform in the next few years, from about a quarter now.

While digital sales rose 2.1 percent during the quarter, the unit was particularly hit by merchandising and marketing challenges that arose due to job cuts announced in June, it said.

The savings from the cuts are expected to have a more significant impact in 2018, Record said.

It was a quarter of major changes for the department store operator, with the abrupt departure of Chief Executive Officer Gerald Storch and the sale of its Lord & Taylor flagship store in Manhattan to Softbank-backed shared workspace provider WeWork Cos.

    The company said on Wednesday that it had closed a C$500 million investment from private equity firm Rhone Capital, which was part of the Lord & Taylor store sale. That followed a truce with Litt, who had challenged the deal with the Ontario regulator, saying it wasn’t in the interest of minority shareholders.

    Hudson’s Bay also opened 10 Hudson’s Bay and one Saks Off Fifth stores in the Netherlands.

    The Toronto-based company reported a net loss that grew to C$243 million ($192 million), or C$1.33 per share, in the quarter ended Oct. 28, from C$125 million, or 69 cents, a year earlier, it said in a statement.

    Analysts had expected a net loss of C$138.2 million, or 76 Canadian cents, according to Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S.

    Hudson’s Bay’s total retail sales fell 4.2 percent over the three months to C$3.16 billion, primarily driven by declines in comparable sales at all but its Saks Fifth Avenue and Hudson’s Bay divisions.

    Reporting By Nichola Saminather; Editing by Nick Zieminski

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