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J.C. Penney stock falls after hours

J.C. Penney stock falls after hours
MGN Online
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Thursday, September 26, 2013 - 6:01pm

J.C. Penney shares continued their roller coaster Thursday, following a 15% plunge on Wednesday, amid reports that the department store chain could be seeking to raise as much as $1 billion through the sale of new stock or bonds.

J.C. Penney put out a press release shortly before the stock market opened for trading Thursday. The message was scant on details and did not address reports about raising cash. The release said sales were growing, which seemed to help the stock recover from a 9% drop in pre-market trading. After the market open, the stock zigged and zagged between negative and positive.

"In response to inquiries, JCPenney said today that it is pleased with its progress so far in the company's turnaround efforts and the traction its initiatives are starting to achieve," the company statement said. "Overall, sales on jcp.com continue to trend double digits ahead of last year."

The company said it expects "positive comparable store sales trends" for the third and fourth quarters of 2013.

Shares traded below $10 on Thursday morning, for the first time since 2000. They closed at $10.42, up 3%, but then sank 4% in after-hours trading following reports that the company will indeed seek to raise cash through a public offering of 84 million shares.

The stock was driven down by "the shock and awe of seeing them raise more money, and that might be the last money they can raise," said Brian Sozzi, chief executive officer and chief equities strategist for Belus Capital Advisors.

The press release was lacking "hard numbers," he said.

Sozzi said he expects J.C. Penney to raise more cash and "stabilize things in the market," but long-term survival will depend on whether the store can find a way to boost sales.

"They're going to have to really improve in 2014," he said. "If they don't, and continue to burn cash, then you really have to wonder about their survival in 2014."

Sterne Agee analysts Charles Grom and Renato Basanata wrote in a research report that the company projects liquidity of $1.5 billion for the end of the year, but runs a significant risk of burning through it the following year.

"While we agree that liquidity will not be an issue through FY13, looking ahead to FY14 we believe that the issue of liquidity remains a big question," wrote the analysts.

Activist investor Bill Ackman added fuel to the fire when he cut his losses last month. His hedge fund, Pershing Square Capital Management, sold its entire 18% stake in the company.

Ackman had tried to save the company by recruiting Ron Johnson, former head of Apple retailing, to lead J.C. Penney as chief executive. But Johnson got rid of company discounts, distancing its customer base and sinking sales. So the company him pushed out earlier this year.

The company is now being led by interim CEO Mike Ullman, the former CEO of the company.

CNNMoney's Maureen Farrell contributed to this story.

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