The stock had been up 25% year to date through the end of October but fell sharply following the company’s second-quarter earnings report on Nov. 6.
The decline in the share price seems to be a case of investor enthusiasm getting too far ahead of the company’s actual performance leading up to the latest quarterly results. Management has been implementing a strategy to improve growth and profitability by investing more in marketing, selectively expanding in the right markets around the world, investing in digital capabilities, and controlling costs.
In the first half of the year, Ralph Lauren’s revenue was up 2% while operating income grew 20%. The faster growth in operating income reflects solid execution on management’s strategy to control costs while still making the necessary investments in marketing and digital to keep revenue growing.
The second-quarter earnings report continued to show progress, with revenue and earnings beating the consensus analyst estimate. Ralph Lauren posted revenue growth of 2% year over year, while non-GAAP earnings per share were up 13.5%.
What’s more, the company showed good results internationally, with 13% revenue growth in Asia, highlighted by more than 20% growth in Greater China — Ralph Lauren’s fastest-growing market.
Investors were probably looking for better growth in the North America segment, which only grew 1% in the quarter. That might seem low given that management increased marketing investment by 30%.
Nonetheless, Ralph Lauren is heading in a positive direction. Management expects full-year revenue growth to be roughly flat to up slightly on a constant currency basis, which is better than previous guidance that revenue would be flat to slightly down this year. Also, operating margin should be up 40 to 60 basis points driven by gross margin expansion.
Wall Street analysts expect Ralph Lauren to grow adjusted earnings per share 12.4% in fiscal 2019. The stock trades at a modest forward PE of 15 times next year’s earnings estimates. If the company shows further progress to accelerate revenue growth in the coming quarters, especially in North America, the stock price should recover.