Should Macy's Spin Off Its E-Commerce Business?
The Wall Street Journal recently reported that luxury department store chain Saks Fifth Avenue is aiming to take its e-commerce division public at a valuation of $6 billion, making investors...
A few weeks ago, The Wall Street Journal reported that luxury department store chain Saks Fifth Avenue (owned by Toronto-based Hudson's Bay Co.) is aiming to take its e-commerce division public at a valuation of $6 billion, sending ripples across the retail industry and making investors wonder if Macy’s M would do the same.
The new $6 billion valuation for Saks.com is triple the assessment the unit received following investment from private equity firm Insight Partners earlier this year.
Many rightfully took this as a sign that other department stores’ online channels, like Macys.com, could have similarly increased in value, especially after activist investor Jana Partners announced a stake in the department store chain last month; the firm sent a letter to Macy’s board urging the retailer to separate its online and brick-and-mortar businesses and saying its e-commerce segment is now worth more than Macy’s as a whole is today.
Given these two catalysts, it’s not surprising that Macy’s shares spiked 17.5% the day the WSJ report was published. The Covid-19 pandemic certainly changed the way we view the retail industry, as it highlighted which brands have the ability to weather unprecedented circumstances.
If Macy’s were to spin off its e-commerce unit, it would be a major event for retail, reflecting how valuable online storefronts have become these days.
But it wouldn’t be an easy feat.
Macy’s still has hundreds of open stores across the country (compared to only a few dozen for Saks), so splitting the physical and digital businesses would present many logistical and operational challenges. Plus, management has yet to indicate that it’s even considering such a move.
Wall Street analysts have also weighed in on the idea. Citibank analyst Paul Lejuez told clients that he didn’t think a split made sense for Macy’s, maintaining a sell rating and a price target of $20 on the stock. On the other hand, Cowen analyst Oliver Chen argued that even though a spin-off is unlikely to happen in the near term, Macy’s e-commerce unit could be worth $40+ a share as a standalone business.
Investors, however, are clearly open to the idea. It’s also important to note that Jana Partners has a history of endorsing mega retail deals; they were part of the crowd that pushed organic grocer Whole Foods Market to be acquired by Amazon AMZN.
Macy’s stock has gained over 174% year-to-date, and its market cap now sits at almost $9.6 billion. Shares are still a bargain as well, currently trading at an 8.2X forward multiple.
The company is set to report earnings on November 18, which will give us an updated look at its online business performance as the ultra-important holiday season approaches.
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