Asia's Largest Clothing Retailer Plummets After Slashing Guidance By A Third; Blames Strong Yen

It didn't take long for the impact of the stronger yen, and the weak global economy, to manifest themselves on the company that is Asia largest clothing retailer.

Moments ago, shares of Japan's clothing empire Fast Retailing, whose most prominent brand is Uniqlo, plunged by 10% sending its stock price to the lowest since June 2013, after the company cut its profit forecast made just four months ago by a third from JPY180 billion to JPY120 billion (well below the JPY169 consensus) a five year low, saying a stronger yen eroded the value of overseas sales and unexpectedly warm winter weather hurt demand for the company’s down coats and thermal underwear. It also announced it would cut its dividend to JPY350/shr vs. JPY370 per the prior guidance.

The sellside, which completely missed the collapse in profits, was quick to come up with a narrative:

  • “Lack of any ground breaking new functionality has raised concerns that rivals have caught up with similar products in the summer range”, writes Nomura Securities chief researcher Masafumi Shoda in report
  • Earnings show “fresh evidence of the pitfalls involved in selling a limited range of items in mass quantities under a single brand” writes SMBC Nikko Securitites senior analyst Kuni Kanamori in report

Bloomberg adds that billionaire Chairman Tadashi Yanai had bet on expanding the company’s Uniqlo casual clothing brand outside Japan, opening flagship stores in shopping districts from London to Paris, Shanghai, New York and Seoul. The move, prompted by stagnating economic growth in Japan, has made the company more vulnerable to a strengthening Japanese currency.

The yen’s gain, which as reported earlier had wiped out all losses since the expansion of Japan's QE in October 2014 and is up over 10% in 2016, led to a JPY22.8 yen foreign-exchange loss in the first half, the retailer reported Thursday. Chief Financial Officer Takeshi Okazaki warned that there could be more exchange losses if the yen continues to strengthen.

It wasn't just the stronger Yen: Fast Retailing also took a 21 billion yen impairment loss related to its J Brand premium denim label in the U.S. and its domestic and overseas stores, but the message to both its and all other investors was clear: either the BOJ steps in with some more easing, or more companies are going to suffer from comparable "shock announcements" in the coming weeks as Japan's earnings season evolves.