After all the headlines and explanations to customers and Congress about a massive data breach, Target Corp. early Wednesday will announce its first financial results since the episode happened, and investors are focused on one number: 79 cents.
That's the per-share profit forecast that analysts have come up with after factoring initial costs of the breach as well as continuing losses in its newly expanded Canadian operation.
Target executives last month warned investors to expect a lower profit because news of the breach, which was announced Dec. 19, resulted in fewer shoppers coming to its stores at the end of the busy holiday season. The effect of the breach would drop its per-share profit into a range of $1.20 to $1.30, down from its previous guidance of $1.50 to $1.60 a share.
The company also told investors to factor in another reduction of around 45 cents a share due to costs related to the expansion in Canada, where it opened more than 100 stores last year.
In contrast to the most recent three months, Target's profit was $1.47 per share in the quarter that ended January 2013.
Investors will also watch for what Target executives say about the longer-term costs of the breach. The company could end up paying for the costs that banks have incurred, losses suffered by customers, if they materialize, as well as costs related to improving its data systems.
"We expect Target to provide details of the known costs of the credit card breach including the cost to replace its own cards and update the credit card technology in its stores, in addition to fraud on Redcards," Christopher Horvers, an analyst at JPMorgan, wrote in a note to investors this week. "We may not yet learn the cost of other technology investments to update internal systems, what the incremental marketing [costs] will be to rebuild the brand, the cost of credit card monitoring that Target offered all customers after the breach, and the costs related to third parties such as the banks as numbers have yet to be finalized."
Target shares closed up 37 cents, or 0.7 percent, to $56.51 on the New York Stock Exchange Tuesday.