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Takeaway: The good outweighs the bad in JCPenney’s 10K disclosure.

This note was originally published March 21, 2013 at 09:18 in Retail

Here are some key points from JC Penney's 10K disclosure.

  1. Commented that the letter it received from bondholders (that one the people speculated was from Icahn to back Ackman into a corner) claiming JCP had defaulted on its commitment has been rescinded. A default would have caused a chain reaction with other tranches of debt, and potentially caused a major liquidity event. That risk is now mitigated.
     
  2. Capex for 2013 is coming down to levels on par with 2012. That frees up about $200mm in our model, and of course, in JCP’s liquidity. We like this change, because quite frankly – JCP spending $1bn (even with its remodel program) borders on ridiculous.
     
  3. Pension expense (non-cash) to decline in 2013 by about 40%. On top of that, expected rate of return is down to 7% from 7.5%.
     
  4. On the negative side, JCP added risk factors of chance of non-cash asset impairment charges, and potential limited use of NOL carryforwards. Not good, and we’re curious as to why there would be a limit in the ability to use NOLs. But the end result is that this not a disaster.  
     
  5. There was also a comment on change in strategy could take longer. JCP had to do that given that a) it is starting to be promotional again and does not know the full impact. And 2) the Martha Stewart trial is in limbo, and JCP might have to change to alter the scope of the product in the event of an adverse outcome.
     
  6. One credibility point is that the company noted that it ended the year at 116,000 employees, that’s 27%, or below a year ago. On one hand, that represents major progress in JCP's restructuring.  On the flip side, it’s more than 2x the number of people Ron Johnson said had lost their job when he testified under oath earlier this month at the JCP/M/MSO trial. The year-ago number was likely inflated due to a higher number of seasonal employees on the books on the final day of the prior year – so the figures could likely be dissected many different ways. But either way, Johnson haters will use this as a knock on his credibility.
     
  7. There was no commentary on first quarter performance, but we caution that we still need to get past what will likely be an abysmal first quarter performance (25% of square footage will be under construction) before we start to see improved productivity from the new shops that get put in place in May.

When all is said and done, we think the good outweighs the bad. We still think anyone with an immediate-term investing horizon shouldn’t look at JCP as a long, but that it will turn in the second half of 2013.