Midday Report: Ulta Salon Shares Fall After Bad Earnings Forecast


Produced by Drew Trachtenberg

A big beauty supply chain may need a quick touch-up: shares of Ulta Salon (ULTA) are tumbling after the company issued a disappointing earnings forecast for the current quarter.

The stock lost as much as 14 percent of its value this morning, falling to its lowest level in more than a year.

Ultra Salon and store
(Leigh Vogel, Getty Images for Carlos Miele)

Ulta operates full service salons -- providing traditional favorites such as hair services, manicures, pedicures and massages. It also sells make-up, fragrances, skin and hair care products, and accessories.

Analysts say that dual concept has given it an advantage over its main rivals, Estee Lauder (EL) and Elizabeth Arden (RDEN), which depend entirely on the success of their own brands.

Ulta had 550 stores at the end of last year, with plans to open another 125 this year.

Analysts remain generally upbeat about Ulta, although there are some near-term concerns about its stock price.
A Sterne Agee analyst cut his price target on the stock to $90 from $102, following the company's disappointing forecast. However, he believes Ulta's longer-term growth plans are still intact and maintains a 'buy' rating on the stock.

But Oppenheim has downgraded its rating, citing choppy customer demand. It now has a neutral position on the stock.
On the other hand, Credit Suisse is bullish. It raised its rating on the stock to 'outperform'.

As for the numbers, Ulta's fourth-quarter net rose by nearly 40 percent, on a 30 percent increase in revenue. But for the current quarter, the company sees net of 60 to 63 cents a share -- well short of the Street consensus of 72 cents.

In addition to the short-term issues, Ulta faces a leadership void: its chief executive resigned last month to take the top spot at Michaels Stores, and a new CFO was just recently named after the former CFO stepped down late last year.