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GameStop Earnings Are Coming. Nobody Knows What to Expect.

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GameStop stock has been on a wild ride for two months.

Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

After two months of wild trading, GameStop will report results for its January quarter on Tuesday. What that means for the stock is anyone’s guess.

In a note Thursday, Wedbush analyst Michael Pachter wrote that GameStop is “well-positioned to be a primary beneficiary of the new console launches.” But he thinks the stock is trading at levels that are disconnected from fundamentals. Though Pachter rates the stock at Neutral, he has a $16 price target. GameStop stock was up 4.6% to $211 on Friday.

By now, many Americans know why. GameStop stock was widely panned by Wall Street analysts, with the stock falling around the price of a Happy Meal a year ago. It garnered an obscene short interest, meaning hedge funds were lining up to bet on a price decline. But when short sellers get ahead of themselves, positive news can send stocks soaring as they rush to buy shares to close out their bets in the face of unlimited downside.

In the second half of last year, Chewy co-founder Ryan Cohen entered the mix. He revealed a stake and later called for major changes. He upped his stake in December and joined the board in January with two associates.

Keying in on the stock’s short interest, and the possibility that GameStop could find a second life as a gaming-focused e-commerce player, retail traders on Reddit’s WallStreetBets forum piled into GameStop stock. Technical quirks of options activity, the aforementioned short interest, and the newfound enthusiasm sent GameStop stock surging in January.

WallStreetBets made it to the front pages of national newspapers, and the bearish hedge funds got torched. It also kicked off a debate about short selling, as well as one about retail traders’ access to financial markets after Robinhood and other brokers temporarily limited buying of the stock due to financial requirements from their clearinghouses.

GameStop stock fell back around $40 but surged again in the past month. Though GameStop announced a hunt for a new chief financial officer, some promising e-commerce-focused hires, and a board committee chaired by Cohen to guide its transformation into a technology company, it hasn’t provided an update on sales or its prospects since its holiday sales release on Jan. 11, which signaled a disappointing December.

For the full fiscal fourth quarter, Pachter, the analyst at Wedbush, expects sales of $2.3 billion, comparable sales up 4.8% year-over-year, and adjusted earnings of $1.38 a share. He notes that GameStop’s holiday sales report indicated same-store sales were down year-over-year in December and lagged behind positive industrywide data from NPD. He notes the company has lost market share in recent periods to competitors amid a shift to internet spending.

BofA Global Research analyst Curtis Nagle wrote in a Friday note that he expects an underwhelming quarter, albeit a profitable one. He wrote that while the recent announcements related to Cohen and new hires are positive, in theory, there haven’t been actual details on cost, timeline, and impacts to earnings of a turnaround plan. He has a $10 price objective with an Underperform rating, noting that the stock’s current valuation and historic multiple would imply earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation, and amortization of $3.5 billion, about four times its peak Ebitda from 2015.

Nagle’s note included an analysis on the impact of $1,400 direct payments on the stock, the idea being that retail investors will use their latest windfall on GameStop stock. His takeaway is that the “stimmies,” as he calls them, will not impact GameStop stock going forward.

Of course, what analysts have said about GameStop stock hasn’t had much of an impact on its recent moves. A positive update on the turnaround plan could thwart the remaining bears in the near term. On the flip side, any commentary on possible stock sales could be negative. Pachter had expected short sellers to abandon their bets, with the stock returning to more fundamental-based levels. That hasn’t happened, he noted.

“Activists control the company’s board, and lead activist Ryan Cohen, founder of Chewy, intends to unveil a new strategy sometime soon,” Pachter added. “When the new strategy is revealed and we are able to evaluate it, we will revisit our estimates and PT.”

Write to Connor Smith at connor.smith@barrons.com