J C Penney Company Inc stock climbed 11.75% to $9.32 per share in after-hours trading last night after the retailer surprised Wall Street—both with an early earnings release and with results that beat expectations. It was scheduled to report this morning but released its report last night. The company posted fourth quarter adjusted earnings of 39 cents per share, beating the consensus of 23 cents, and revenue of $4 billion, which was just about in line with the $3.99 billion that had been expected. In the previous year’s fourth quarter, J.C. Penney reported $3.9 billion in sales.
J.C. Penney reports strong comparable sales growth
The department store chain reported a 4.1% increase in comparable store sales for the fourth quarter and 4.5% for the whole year. It reported that all of its regions saw year over year gains in comparable store sales in the fourth quarter with the best-performing divisions being Home, Sephora, Footwear and Handbags. J.C. Penney saw the strongest gains in the western and northeastern parts of the U.S.
Adjusted EBITDA for the full year climbed 155% to $715 million for the full fiscal 2015, while gross margin climbed 120 basis points to 36% for the year. Also free cash flow grew 130% to $131 million, while net losses were $1.03 per share for the full year. Net losses were 43 cents per share.
For the fourth quarter, adjusted EBITDA was $381 million, a 40% year over year increase, and gross margin climbed 30 basis points to 34.1% of sales as the retail chain improved its clearance and promotional selling margins.
We are very pleased with our performance for the fourth quarter and full year,” said J.C. Penney CEO Marvin Ellison in a statement. “Our focus on private brands, omnichannel and revenue per customer is clearly resonating as we continue to win market share in a competitive environment. We are also pleased that we delivered strong fourth quarter results while effectively managing our inventory, which finished the year up 2.6 %.”
J.C. Penney issues strong guidance too
J.C. Penney Management expects between 3% and 4% increase in comparable store sales for this year, plus a 40 to 60 basis point improvement in gross margin and $1 billion in EBITDA. They also expect adjusted earnings to be on the plus side for the year and continuing improvements in free cash flow.