One example was Jarden (NYSE:JAH), whose brands include Sunbeam, Coleman and Mr. Coffee. For quarters it has been saying its internal target for earnings growth is 15%. On its third-quarter earnings call, however, the company said earnings for 2007 would grow 10% to 15%. Investors often view newly created ranges, where the low-end is below expectations, as a lowering of guidance.
Not at Jarden, whose outside PR spokesman told me management is merely being “conservative” and that the 15% figure is an “average” of what is really expected. It doesn’t really matter because shares rose 8% on better-than-expected quarterly results.
But even that earnings "beat" is subject to interpretation. It could be argued that adjusted for a share count that is lower than management’s second-quarter guidance, a lower-than-expected stock compensation expense and the shift of some product sales to the third quarter from the fourth, the company actually missed analyst estimates by a few pennies.
A spokesman responded in an email that “Jarden reports without stock compensation expense; the street was at 81 cents and Jarden did 89 cents, a beat of 8 cents of which 5 cents may be a move from Q4.”
But First Call was at 75 cents, I shot back, adding that every news story on the earnings mentioned earnings per share of 78 cents, which they no doubt picked up from the second sentence of the earnings report..
To which the spokesman said, “You are mixing apples and oranges. The reported 78 cents compares to 40 cents last year (a 95% year over year increase) and is AFTER the reorg charge and profit in inventory expense which the analysts EXCLUDE from their numbers. The COMPARABLE # to the Street's 75 cents would be 82 cents a BEAT of 7 cents.”
To which I say: This is like the hat game during a Padres game at Petco Park; good luck keeping track of which hat the ball is under. Way too complicated for company that makes coffee makers and blankets.