J.C. Penney Earnings and Dell Revenue Show Recovery May Be Near

Dell HQ
Dell HQ

The earnings reports of J.C. Penney Co. Inc. (NYSE: JCP) and Dell Inc. (NASDAQ: DELL) show that revenues at each company finally may have found bottoms. This sets a stage for a halting and modest recovery for each firm, as well as an improvement in their share prices.

Of the two companies, the turnaround of J.C. Penney seems least likely. After 2012, when same-store sales fell more than 20%, first-quarter results showed revenue another 17% drop to $2.6 billion. J.C. Penney has two ingredients to help it recover.

The first is a five-year $1.75 billion senior secured term loan facility from Goldman Sachs Group Inc. (NYSE: GS), which buys the retailer time. The other is a promise from new (and old) CEO Myron E. (Mike) Ullman III to largely return J.C. Penney to the merchandising and operating strategy it had before disgraced CEO Ron Johnson took over the company and nearly ruined it.

Ullman said:

We are intensely focused on renewing customer excitement and loyalty through a combination of new attractions and long-beloved brands, with a promotional cadence that customers can appreciate and count on.

"Old" is the operative word. Under Ullman, J.C. Penney did not do terribly well, but it did hold its own. In 2010 and 2011, revenue was flat at about $17.5 billion. And the company made money each year. Ullman's bet is that people who shopped at J.C. Penney once will do so again. He can revive some of the familiarity of the brand and, in doing so, bring back some portion of the old customer base. J.C. Penney's revenue may not recover entirely to $17.5 billion, but, with judicious cost cuts, it could be profitable.

Dell's problem is very simple. Consumers do not want to own PCs at all. However, that wisdom is flawed. Global PC sales fell 14% in the first quarter of 2013. However, experts blamed some of that on the weak launch of Microsoft Corp.'s (NASDAQ: MSFT) Windows 8. Despite these problems, Dell's revenue dropped only 2% to $14.1 billion in the most recent quarter. And it made an extremely modest profit of $130 million. As a bonus, Dell's non-PC businesses did extremely well. Enterprise Solutions, Services and Software revenue increased 12%.

There is a reason Michael Dell and Carl Icahn continue to battle for the company. Its PC operations have neared a bottom. Its non-PC businesses are thriving.

Investors see a financial future in Dell, even if it is because of the buyout. Its shares are 33% higher this year. J.C. Penney's shares are off 5% over the same period, which is modest measured against its trouble. Since Ullman took over, the stock is 28% higher.

The market has called a recovery for both companies. From time to time, the market is right.

Filed under: 24/7 Wall St. Wire, Earnings, PC Companies, Retail Tagged: DELL, featured, GS, JCP, MSFT

Originally published