Tiffany’s dazzling 1Q11

the results

TIF reported results for its 1Q11 (TIF’s fiscal year ends on January 31st of the following calendar year) before the New York market opened on Thursday, May 26th.  The company posted earnings of $.63 per share on revenues of $761 million.  This compares with per share profits of $.50 in the year-ago quarter on sales of $633.6 million.  The Wall Street consensus was $.57.

The report represents a 26% gain in earnings on a 20% advance in sales.  TIF’s performance for the quarter was considerably better than these strong comparisons suggest, however.  TIF posted a one-time tax benefit worth $.02 a share in last year’s first quarter; this year’s income statement had in it $.04 in non-recurring costs for moving TIF’s headquarters.  Ex these items, earnings were up 39% year on year.

In its conference call, TIF raised its full year guidance by $.10 a share, to $3.45-$3.55 (excluding $.19 in non-recurring moving charges).  A few days before the report, the company upped its quarterly dividend by 16%, from $.25 a share to $.29.

The stock made an odd little rally in the closing hour of trading on Wednesday.  It gained another 8.6% on Thursday.

the details

Yes, analysts had penciled in $.57 a share in earnings, based, I think, mostly on company guidance.  But I can’t imagine anyone was super-comfortable with the number.  The two big imponderables:

1.  How would Japan perform in the aftermath of the earthquake and tsunamis that occurred on March 11th north of Tokyo?  How many stores would be damaged by the resulting power shortages, and for how long?  Would TIF’s sales be hurt by an attitude of “self-restraint” (jishuku), i.e., postponement of consumption, in sympathy with earthquake victims?  If so, would that be contained to the Tokyo area or would it spread to the rest of the country?

When TIF reported 4Q10 results on March 21st, the company said it expected Japanese sales to be down by 15% year on year in 1Q11, reducing total company eps by about $.05.  …but who knew?   …and the company had already booked half a quarter of “normal” sales–would 2Q11 be worse?

2.  Would the US business slow?  After all, the prevailing sentiment on Wall Street has been that domestic unemployment is still high, job growth is lackluster and the overall economy is being hurt, possibly more seriously than expected, by high gasoline prices.  Maybe economic doldrums would have an adverse effect on TIF customers–not only aspirational buyers but the wealthy as well.

Japanese results were unexpectedly good

Instead of down 15%, Japanese sales (which accounted for 17% of total company sales in the quarter) were up by 7%.  This was due completely to a 10% gain of the yen vs. the dollar during the quarter.  Nevertheless, same store sales were only down by 3%.  The Osaka area was relatively unaffected.  Nationwide comps were +3% in February, -16% in March (implying to me that Tokyo-area sales fell by about a third during the month), +6% in April.  Jishuku may have also had some unusual effects:  sales in Guam and Hawaii, traditional Japanese tourist destinations, were up 30% year on year for the quarter.

TIF now thinks that, while Japan won’t be a source of strength this year, it won’t be a significant drag on the rest of the company, eitherSounds reasonable.

to me, the US was a bigger positive surprise

I know sales of luxury goods are going very well, and I expected that TIF’s sales in the Americas ( 48% of the company) would easily be up in double digits.  But the 19% gain TIF achieved was considerably higher than I expected. Comparable store sales at the flagship store in NYC were up 23%, year on year; comps in the rest of the US were up by 15%.  High-end jewelry did the best, as has been the case for some time.  However, there was even some strength in the silver jewelry that TIF’s less affluent clients favor.  US sales growth was “solid from coast to coast.”  Comps got better as the quarter progressed.

the rest of the world continues to show amazing gains

Sales were up by 37% year on year in Asia-Pacific (23% of TIF’s total) thanks mostly to Greater China.  Currency accounted for 6% of that, and new stores another 5%.  But comps were up 26%, after a 21% year on year gain in 2010.  Wow!

Sales in Europe (12%) were up 25%.  Currency gains made up 6% of the increase, and new stores 4%.  But comps were up 15%, due mostly to strength in continental Europe, after a 14% increase last year.

the stock

I haven’t changed my mind about TIF since I wrote about the stock after the 4Q11 earnings release.  I still think the company can earn $3.75 a share this year and $4.50 or so next.  Applying a 20x multiple to these figures gives us a $75 target based on 2011 eps and $90 on 2012.  Applying 25x gets correspondingly higher figures.

One thing is different, however.  TIF is no longer the sub-$60 stock it was in March.

TIF has exceptionally strong management, a wonderful brand name, and it’s also in the right place at the right time.  So I think it will continue to be an outperformer.  I’m happy to hold the stock.  I’ve trimmed my own position a bit, though, mostly because of its size.  I’d be an eager buyer on weakness.

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