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Drowning In Sweat

 

“Nobody ever drowned in his own sweat.” 

-Ann Landers

 

 

 

I’ve seen a lot of sweaty hockey players in my day. The stench of a few hockey bags in the back of a mini-van has definitely made a few hockey Moms nauseous, but I think Ann Landers has the greater risk management point right.

 

The Hedgeye Question of The Day: Can markets drown in the sweat of their own expectations? If you are really levered up long here. And I mean right here, right now… you better be sweating. Here’s why:

 

 

TIME

  1. Month-End markups (and Year-End for some), ends today.
  2. Mid-Term Election catalyst is gone as of next week.
  3. QG’s (Quantitative Guessing) expectations could get hammered next week.

SPACE

  1. SP500 is up +13% since Bernanke signed off on creating fanciful QE expectations in Jackson Hole (August 27th).
  2. CRB Commodities Index (proxy for inflation expectations) is up +15% since the same begging for Bernanke bailouts began.
  3. After losing over -7% of its value since Jackson Hole, the Burning Buck is bottoming on an immediate term basis (up for the 2nd wk in a row).

As global macro risk managers, measuring TIME (duration of catalysts) and SPACE (price) is obviously critical. At the same time we need to comply with the rules of Wall Street Storytelling and come up with something that the theoretical people out there can surmise as plausible.

 

How about this 3-factor model?

  1. Global Growth Is Slowing
  2. Global Inflation Is Accelerating
  3. Globally Interconnected Risk is Compounding

‘Whoa, whoa, big bone head hockey fellah – that doesn’t fit the narrative fallacy of our outstanding September/October performance run. Reign that sweaty hockey talk in before we cut your trading commissions. Oh right, you don’t have trading commissions – we’ll plug Nomura then.’

 

I didn’t sweat consensus coming off of the April highs and I’m certainly not going to now. There are plenty of clean cut contrarian signals in the marketplace today that reconcile another mean reversion move in correlations to the downside (VIX, CDS Spreads, Sentiment, Inside Selling, Volume Studies, etc…). But let’s not focus on those market-practitioner-points for now. Let’s get back to where the theoreticians need some convincing.

 

 

 

Global Growth

  1. USA: Assuming that the Street isn’t asking for a TRILLION in QE2 because US growth is accelerating, I think consensus gets that US growth is slowing. This isn’t a new concept; it’s a reminder. You’ll get the revisionist “economist” commentary on Q3 GDP this morning, but obviously today is Q4 and @Hedgeye we’re looking for another sequential slowdown to 1.3% GDP growth based on what we call our “Consumption Cannonball” estimates for the C in C+I+G for year end.
  2. JAPAN: Assuming that Citigroup’s Chief Economist isn’t joking this morning (he’s asking for “100 TRILLION” in Japanese style QE to rescue the Japanese from the broken promises of Krugman Kryptonite – yes, that’s ONE HUNDRED TRILLION YEN – a lot of Yen), we’ll assume that the Japanese stock market teetering on another crash is representative of reality. After seeing Retail Sales (September) fall off a cliff last night, Japanese equities lost another -1.8% taking the YTD loss for the Nikkei down to -12.8% (only Greece and Slovakia are worse YTD).
  3. CHINA: Assuming that the Chinese weren’t joking when they raised interest rates last week, they seem fine with the tradeoff of fighting Guido’s War (QE inspired inflation) in lieu of seeing a continued slowdown in both Chinese and Asian economic growth. From Taiwan’s Industrial Production slowing to 12.2% (SEP) vs 23.4% (AUG) to Japanese Exports continuing to slow sequentially (SEP vs AUG), this week’s Asian economic data reflects reality. Chinese stocks closed down last night for the 6th out of the last 7 days.

 

 

Global Inflation

  1. US INFLATION: Monday’s $10 BILLION in 5-year TIPs (Treasury Inflation Protection) yielded the 1st negative yield (-0.55%) ever. Yes, every Wall Street Storyteller knows that EVER is a very long time. The inflation expectations born out of QE are so high that your favorite 401k manager saw it fit to PAY THE GOVERNMENT to take your money, LOL.
  2.  GLOBAL INFLATION: Whether it was Singapore reporting that inflation accelerated to +3.7% (SEP) v. +3.3% (AUG) or India’s Finance Minister suggesting earlier this week that Indian inflation is running “double the ideal level”, I don’t see an inflation chart in the world that hasn’t moved up into the right from the Bernanke Jackson Hole lows of August. This is the birth-child of the Fiat Fools folks. Watch what prices do, not what conflicted and compromised Japanese style governments are telling you they are doing.
  3. INTEREST RATES: On the heels of continued rates hikes in Asia (China hiked last week) and Europe (Sweden hiked this week), a lot of perma-bond market bulls are all of a sudden having their worst week in a very long time. Why? Interest rates are going higher all of a sudden (yes, this does happen periodically from decade to decade). In the face of global inflation concerns, both 10-year and 30-year yields on US Treasuries are breaking out above what we call our immediate term TRADE lines of resistance of 2.55% and 3.81%, respectively.

 

 

Global Interconnectedness

  1. CORRELATION RISK: The inverse correlation between the US Dollar Index and virtually everything else (other than things with positive correlations to the US Dollar like Natural Gas) is as high right now as I have seen in my models going back to September of 2008. We’re talking correlations and r-squares ranging between 0.85 and 0.97 – mathematical monsters.
  2. CROSS ASSET CLASS RISK: Overlay the chart of Chinese equities and Copper and you’ll get the point. China correcting hard in the last week and now Copper breaks what was a significant immediate term TRADE line of support in our macro model at $3.73/pound. Proxy for Asian growth slowing sequentially into Q1?
  3. INTEREST RATE RISK: Ask Captain Stock Picker what happens to their super duper picks that are all of a sudden going up every day for the last 2 months what happens if both JGB (Japanese Government Bond) and UST (US Treasury) yields start backing up together. You know, if default risk starts getting priced into either US or Japanese sovereign yields in say the next stage of their lifetime?

 

Drowning In Sweat - Bernanke 2

 

Sweating yet? Don’t worry – it won’t kill you. Heli-Ben has bags full of “cash on the sidelines” – load up the mini-vans and plug your nose.

 

My immediate term TRADE lines of support and resistance for the SP500 are now 1169 and 1192, respectively.

 

Have a great weekend and best of luck out there today,

KM

 

Keith R. McCullough
Chief Executive Officer

 

Drowning In Sweat - sweat


American Solitude

This note was originally published at 8am this morning, October 28, 2010. INVESTOR and RISK MANAGER SUBSCRIBERS have access to the EARLY LOOK (published by 8am every trading day) and PORTFOLIO IDEAS in real-time.

“However many people you may consult, you are the one who has to make the hard decisions. And at such moments, all you really have is yourself.”

-William Deresiewicz

 

Those were the closing sentences of a lecture that William Deresiewicz gave to the plebe class at the US Military Academy at West Point in October of 2009. The lecture was titled “Solitude and Leadership.” It was posted in The American Scholar on March 1, 2010.

 

The timing of this lecture was critical. It was given by an ex-Yale professor at a time in American history when leadership was failing us. Deresiewicz is a literary critic who has no qualms calling today’s Yalies “professional hoop jumpers.” He taught Yale kids for 10 years; his opinion isn’t irrelevant. Whether we like reading it this way or not, the rest of the world thinks we’re still failing. Americans need to stop making excuses for losers. America needs winners.

 

Winning starts by having conviction in what you do, taking a stand, and beating someone. Whether on the field or in your portfolio, you can see the score during each second of the game. Don’t blame “depressions.” Embrace adversity. Confront your opponent. You have to play this game with passion.

 

Winning continues by staying true to what got you to start winning in the first place. Grit, guts, and determination works for some. Patience, poise, and flexibility works for others. You, at the end of the day, have to focus on being you.

 

Winning becomes your culture when you inspire your teammates to walk through walls with you. You cannot do this alone. American Solitude is having as much conviction in yourself as you have in your teammates. You have to trust them if you want them to trust you.

 

I’m giving you my 3 cents on this today because I’ve been travelling the American roads less travelled for the better part of the last 2 weeks. I’ve been in 8 different states (Connecticut, New York, New Jersey, New Hampshire, Massachusetts, Maine, Florida and Missouri). I’ve met with a lot of different people. I’ve also spent a lot of time on my own.

 

American Solitude is taking the time to think. As Deresiewicz said, “solitude can mean introspection, it can mean the concentration of focused work, and it can mean sustained reading.” Solitude can also mean friendship. “Long, uninterrupted talk with another person. Not Skyping with 3 people and texting with 2 others at the same time… talking to one other person you can trust.”

 

Whether your solitude is an hour long conversation at an airport bar in Kansas City, Missouri with Howard Penney or speaking with someone you never have enough time to listen to, we need to make time for conversation. Attempting to observe this interconnected world from behind your trading or manic media desk is a very dangerous place.

 

When I get back from the road, the first thing that people tend to ask me is “what are people saying?” or “what’s sentiment out there?” As if the cosmos lined up in a way where my perfectly qualitative sample survey can be disguised as quantifiable edge. Whether it’s right or wrong, that’s Wall Street.

 

The #1 headline on Bloomberg this morning is “FED ASKS DEALERS TO ESTIMATE SIZE, IMPACT OF DEBT PURCHASES.” So, after creating massive disconnects in global expectations and seeing both inflation and interest rates rise this week, look at what the New York Federal Reserve is doing this morning – giving conflicted and compromised bankers a “survey” on the size and impact of Quantitative Guessing. This isn’t leadership – this is a joke.

 

Can you imagine if another Washington (Ron Washington, the Manager of the Texas Rangers) took a stinking survey days before game-time? What in God’s good name would his players think? Ben Bernanke has stated this plainly, so take his word for it – he has no idea what QE’s impact will be.

 

A better question to ask yourself is what aren’t people talking about? What’s the risk that the current market debate is about the bark on a QE tree as opposed to the burning forest of credibility in the US economic system? What if the Chinese or Japanese sell Treasuries and rates rip higher?

 

What people aren’t talking about on Wall Street is the crisis of leadership in this country. We’re hyper focused on what group-thinkers at the Fed will do next. At the same time, the politicized members of this conflicted institution are being held hostage to where the political wind blows. We’ve stopped thinking about re-thinking US monetary policy altogether.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        

I often get asked for my advice – what would I do? First, I say stop. That’s it. Just stop what these people are doing to your hard earned savings. Put that in your survey Bill Dudley. Stop. Then start to un-learn bad policy and re-learn the lessons of the US Military’s 2009 plebe class:

 

“We have a crisis of leadership in America because our overwhelming power and wealth earned under earlier generations of leaders, made us complacent, and for too long we have been training leaders who only know how to keep the routine going. Who can answer questions, but don’t know how to ask them. Who can fulfill goals, but don’t know how to set them. Who think about how to get things done, but not whether they’re worth doing…”

 

Yesterday was a win for my team. We sold volatility (VXX) on strength and we covered some shorts (XLY and HCBK) on weakness. We bought oil (USO) and we bought casino operator Pinnacle Entertainment (PNK). If the government is going to sponsor shortened economic cycles and amplified volatility, I’ll just as soon assume the position of American Solitude and trade this market proactively. Every man for himself.

 

My immediate term support and resistance lines for the SP500 are now 1168 and 1192, respectively. In the Hedgeye Asset Allocation Model, I now have a 61% position in Cash, 24% in Bonds, 12% in International Currency, 3% in Commodities, and 0% in both US and International Equities. In the Hedgeye Portfolio, I remain short both the US Dollar (UUP) and US Equities (SPY).

 

Best of luck out there today,

KM

 

Keith R. McCullough
Chief Executive Officer

 

American Solitude - AA


Bear/Bull Battle: SP500 Levels, Refreshed...

POSITION: Short SP500 (SPY) and Short US Dollar (UUP)

 

The most important macro move in markets today is the lack of a reaction to the US Dollar being debauched.

 

With the US Dollar down over -1% on the day, and immediate term inverse correlations to the USD this high, you’d expect asset prices to inflate, big time. Instead, the US stock market has been flat to down for the better part of the day.

 

Why? Well, we’ll say this until we are Yale Hockey Blue in the face but, at a point, burning your currency eventually becomes a bad thing. Today had to represent the worst credibility day of the week for both the US Federal Reserve and the US monetary system at  large. With less than a week to game time, to see the New York Fed announce to the world that they are taking a “survey” on QE is shock and awe in and of itself.

 

If we thought this would end well, we wouldn’t stay short. Immediate term support for the SP500 is now 1169. Tops are processes, not points.

KM

 

Keith R. McCullough
Chief Executive Officer

 

Bear/Bull Battle: SP500 Levels, Refreshed...  - 1


Hedgeye Statistics

The total percentage of successful long and short trading signals since the inception of Real-Time Alerts in August of 2008.

  • LONG SIGNALS 80.65%
  • SHORT SIGNALS 78.62%

R3: SKX, TGT, M, JWN

R3: REQUIRED RETAIL READING

October 28, 2010 

 

While facing continued cotton inflation, retailers are now faced with the prospect of being blacklisted as some Chinese manufacturers are now turning down orders in USD due the Fx risk.

 

RESEARCH ANECDOTES

 

- While most companies have been dwelling on apparel cost inflation, JNY reported seeing equal cost pressures for footwear. Although cotton and other apparel materials have increased in price to a greater degree than leather, footwear's over concentration of production and labor force to China eliminates any cost pressure discrimination between the two categories.

 

- Interesting quote from fashion legend, Pierre Cardin “There is no more fashion because there is too much fashion. There is no longer a separation between one year and the next. We can't make fashion every six months, perhaps fashion manifests itself every ten years, but, in reality, people have to work and the stores have to sell."

 

- Another example of the democratization of fashion. Designer Derek Lam will be producing a collection for distribution on Ebay which asks consumers to select which designs actually make it to the production line. An interesting move for sure, which in theory should balance supply with demand and minimize fashion misses. The line will be shown in February, voted on, and then made available by summer 2011.

 

- Despite an increasing number of brands and SKUs entering the toning category, Skecher’s management is confident it will maintain or grow share as “filler” brands are cleaned out going forward. With Puma and Crocs among new entrants to the category along with weekly trend data reflecting a consistent loss of share to Reebok and “others” in athletic specialty, there is little to support this view.

 

 

OUR TAKE ON OVERNIGHT NEWS 

 

Target's Go International Program to Design Dresses - To mark the fifth year of its collaborations with up-and-coming designers, Target Corp. has tapped 17 past participants in the Go International program to design a series of dresses. The retailer will launch the collection of 34 dresses, called Designer Collective, on March 13 at most of its stores and on target.com. The merchandise will be available through April 10. Go International was launched in 2006 after Target identified a need to capture more teen spending. Go International reportedly represents more than $100 mm in sales. <wwd.com/retail-news>

Hedgeye Retail’s Take:  Word has it that this effort is actually a “best of” initiative, which will re-release styles that were top sellers over the past 5 years.  Expect vintage shops to perk up as well as they aim to sell “originals”.

 

Macy's New Gift Shops - Macy’s is blowing the lid off its traditional holiday boxed gifts that feature jewelry, cosmetics and cold weather accessories. New Gift Shops, ranging in size from several hundred square feet to more than 1,500 square feet, are filled with colorful, quirky items — about 400 stockkeeping units in all. The merchandise is split equally between men and women with about 90% of the items exclusive to Gift. The Gift Shops will be rolled out to 400 Macy’s units. <wwd.com/retail-news>

Hedgeye Retail’s Take:  Hard to believe grab and go gift merchandising has never been put into a cohesive shop in shop until now.  Definitely makes last minute shopping even more efficient.

 

Nordstroms Opens A Non Profit Store In NYC - Nordstrom Inc. is moving into Manhattan again, but this time with a unique retail concept devoted to philanthropy. The latest venture will be a two-level, 11,137-square-foot “philanthropic-based store concept,” located at 350 West Broadway. All profits will go to nonprofit organizations. It’s a completely new endeavor, not a mini-Nordstrom by any means. It’s not going to have Nordstrom in the name. No Nordstrom signing. No Nordstrom shopping bags. It will have an identity all its own. <wwd.com/retail-news>

Hedgeye Retail’s Take:  Interesting effort here clearly aimed at social responsibility.  With no name association connected to Nordstrom we actually believe this could be pure altruism.  No word yet on any tax benefits from the venture.

 

Fortune Brands Is Said to Plan Meeting With Shareholder Ackman - Fortune Brands Inc. , the maker of Jim Beam bourbon and Titleist golf balls, plans to meet with William Ackman after the activist investor bought 11 percent of the company. <bloomberg.com>

Hedgeye Retail’s Take:  Fresh off of his “cordial” meeting with JCP it looks like Ackman is making the rounds. 

 

Converse Opens First Full-Price Store - Converse opened its first full-price retail shop, on Newbury Street in Boston. A SoHo location will open in New York by the end of this year with other East Coast locations following in 2011.  <sportsonesource.com>

Hedgeye Retail’s Take: After losing Wade to the team across the hall (Brand Jordan), Converse is seeking ways to increase consumer exposure. Retail stores will gain exposure, but the key will be driving traffic and ultimately sales at an ROI that justifies the cost. Incidentally, Converse sales have improved on the margin in recent weeks according to our NPD data source.

 

British Retailers Take a Gamble on the Largest Mall in London - While British shoppers brace for the deepest budget cuts in decades, the largest mall in the City of London financial district opens its doors today as retailers bet on tourists making up for the drop in domestic spending. One New Change includes 220,000 square feet (20,439 square meters) of retail space housing chains including Top Shop, Hennes & Mauritz AB, Hugo Boss AG and Marks & Spencer Group Plc. The mall opens for business eight days after the government detailed 81 bn pounds ($128 bn) of cuts and 490,000 job losses. <bloomberg.com>

Hedgeye Retail’s Take: The timing couldn’t be worse, but with the decision to move forward on the project made years ago the best course of action is to start pulling through revenues.

 

China Toymakers Reject Clients as Yuan Gains Hurt Margins - Lucy Liang, a sales manager for Jiangsu Zhongxin Toys Co., disappointed potential clients from the U.S. and Europe inspecting the pink and yellow teddy bears crowding the toymaker’s stall at China’s biggest trade fair. “My boss orders us to turn down all the orders for the good of the company” because China’s yuan may rise, crimping profit margins, said Liang. The country’s toymakers accept profit margins of as narrow as 3% to stay competitive. The low profitability, coupled with payment periods of three months or more, means they are particularly vulnerable to currency fluctuations. “If the yuan rises to 6 to the dollar, we’re doomed,” said Simon Pan, general manager of closely held Zhejiang Huangyan Hongfan Toys Factory. It’s raising prices by 3% to 5% to offset the Chinese currency’s gains, and further increases would mean losing customers. <bloomberg.com>

Hedgeye Retail’s Take: Chinese manufacturers and businesses can either chose to build in an additional cushion to offset FX risk, or simply deny USD altogether. The latter is a more significant risk as supply inherently becomes tighter and even more costly creating further pressure on retailer margins.

 

Major Textile Groups Urge Action Against India on Cotton Export Restriction - Major textile groups across the world have urged the governments of the European Union, Mexico, Turkey and the US to take action against India if it continues to restrict the export of cotton. The groups cited an illegal pattern of export restraints on cotton that the Indian government has imposed since April. The Indian restraints have contributed to an enormous increase in the price of cotton for non-Indian textile producers around the globe. Since India began restricting the export of cotton in April, the price of cotton has increased by nearly 100%, from 62 cents per lb to $1.20 per lb. Cotton prices have hit all time highs in recent weeks. <fashionnetasia.com>

Hedgeye Retail’s Take: As the #2 global producer, India makes an easy target to help ease supply though the reality is there are a multitude of factors that continue to exacerbate the issue that are also driving prices higher – now it’s a cold snap in China.

 

Holiday: Starting Early and Expecting More - More holiday shoppers will buy online this year, and many of them will start earlier than they did last year, according to a new survey. E-retailers offering early-season discounts and promotions will come out ahead, the results suggest. Those results suggest e-retailers need to put forth their best offers early to capture the greatest sales, says Ken Burke, founder and chairman of e-commerce service provider MarketLive Inc. The survey of 1,000 online consumers finds 44% of respondents say they will do their holiday gift buying online, compared with the 37% who said so in last year’s survey. 39% say they intend to finish their holiday shopping by early December, greater than the 29% who planned to be done by Dec. 3 last year. <internetretailer.com>

Hedgeye Retail’s Take: Yet another competitive advantage for those with an e-commerce platform. With improved analytics, targeted discounting programs based on customer intel are making it even easier to avoid hitting the mall this season.

 

Multichannel Shopping Key for Holiday Season - While most Americans have already started their holiday research and shopping activities—and about half have made purchases—more than three-quarters still have work to do, according to October data from Google and OTX. And multichannel shopping will be critical in getting them to the finish line. Growth in ecommerce sales outpaces total retail, but online and in-store experiences contribute to each other in a complex way. A slight majority of internet users surveyed by Google reported that they would research items on the web and make a purchase in a store, more than would research online and buy online. Nearly a third also planned to do their initial research on the internet and check out the item in a store before making their final purchase online.  <emarketer.com>

Hedgeye Retail’s Take: Yet another reason why an online presence is critical for retailers looking to maintain share.

 

R3: SKX, TGT, M, JWN - 1


Greece’s Hockey Stick Risk Curve

We’ll spare you the words and let the chart below do the talking – risk is heightening (again) via sovereign CDS spreads across Europe, especially in Greece, after abating in the months of September and October. We're managing around risk in Europe--we’re currently not invested across the continent on the long side, but continue to like Germany (via the etf EWG) at a price. Germany printed another month of solid employment data today, with the October unemployment rate unchanged at 7.5%, and the number of unemployed persons falling below the 3 Million mark, an important hurdle that has not been crossed in over 18 years, and coincides with the first anniversary of Chancellor Merkel’s center-right coalition.

 

Matthew Hedrick

Analyst

 

Greece’s Hockey Stick Risk Curve - mh


PNK 3Q2010 CONF CALL NOTES

Another very strong, margin driven quarter for PNK. Numbers need to go higher.

 

"Pinnacle's growth in third quarter revenues and Adjusted EBITDA, together with improvements in Adjusted EBITDA margins, reflect further progress in creating sustainable operating efficiencies across the entire organization while remaining focused on delivering best-in-market guest experiences.  With revenue increases in four of our six markets and improved operating execution across our property portfolio, we are benefiting from our disciplined approach to operational excellence and have a focused team that can drive further improvements."

 

-Anthony Sanfilippo, president and chief executive officer of Pinnacle Entertainment

 

 

HIGHLIGHTS FROM THE RELEASE

  • "Adjusted EBITDA margins increased from prior-year levels in every market except St. Louis, which is affected by the continued ramp-up of operations at River City after its opening earlier this year."
    • Consolidated Adjusted EBITDA margin rose to 20.9%, compared with 16.4% in 3Q 09
  • St. Louis market share was 31.2% in 3Q compared with 19.3% in the prior-year period. 
  • $228MM cash; an estimated $70 million of which is used in day-to-day operations. $375MM undrawn credit facility with $9.6 million of outstanding letters of credit.
  • Gross interest expense ex cap interest: $28MM vs $22.5 MM in 3Q 09; Virtually no cap interest vs $3.8MM in '09
  • Loss of $2.3MM due to discontinued operations
  • Income tax benefit of $5.34MM
  • $357MM Baton Rouge property to open in Dec 2011 with 1,500 slot machines and 51 table games
  • Ginny Sharks appointed to Chief Marketing Officer

CONF CALL NOTES

  • Operational excellence continues to be the key
  • Still in the midst of a relatively static revenue environment
  • L'Auberge team did a good job by yield managing the hotel
  • Did a good job at River City managing flow-through. Also did a good job optimizing labor and joint property initiatives across St. Louis.
  • Belterra's adjusted EBITDA still improved substantially despite heightened competition, largely as a result of marketing efforts
  • Bossier City - targeted labor and marketing efficiencies which helped the bottom line
  • Reno property took a real shift - turned last year's loss into a $1.5MM gain - which was a great result in the absence of a top line lift. Evaluating possible scenarios about selling their land in Reno.
  • Corporate expense decrease was due to office consolidation, aircraft sales, and some downsizing. Still looking for room to cut there.
  • Have $500MM of liquidity and Baton Rouge is fully funded.
  • Capex spend was $30MM including some amount for Baton Rouge
  • Marketers at PNK are a good "intuitive team" but will be helped by analytic tools
  • Efforts underway:
    • Think about how to market in St Louis where they share customers
    • How to reward their good customers
    • Installation of revenue management systems at hotels
  • Will think and act like shareholders
  • L'Auberge prospects:
    • Proud of their 3Q results but still have a lot of work to do

Q&A

  • Return assumption at Baton Rouge given the bump up in capex?
    • Think that on the $100MM add on they will get a good return
    • Add on rooms are not as expensive as initial rooms
    • Parking lot is also important
  • How much of the improvement this quarter is due to better slot product?
    • They are operating more on facts than on gut (like before)
    • They already had fairly fresh slot product
    • Want make sure all the cuts and changes sustainable
  • Purchasing an Ohio track?
    • Won't comment.  They are looking at all markets though
    • They are a growth company and are looking for ways to grow and diversify their portfolio
  • River City parking deck
    • They hired a new manager
    • They need a new parking structure but don't expect it in the next 9-10 months
    • They are thinking about what the next appropriate capital spend is at that property
  • Shared services in St. Louis?
    • Worst outcome would be to compete against each other
    • Moved a corporate guy down to St Louis to manage the finances of both properties
  • Is this quarter's margin at Belterra sustainable?
    • Focusing on identifying who their profitable customers are
    • It's a very competitive market and will be even more competitive when Ohio opens
    • The new margins are sustainable
  • Thoughts on 3 applicants in Louisiana?
    • Applicants have been very vague, but in Dec, they will see presentations on the proposed projects
  • Are they in a dispute with the port of Lake Charles over the land?
    • Entered into a lease with them, but can't comment on whether there is a dispute - generally they have a good relationship there
  • They are in the early stages of using their newly installed yield management system and they have over 900 rooms at L'Auberge.  They are also looking at yielding their slot floor more appropriately.  More than likely, the margins should continue to improve as they replace unprofitable revenues with profitable revenues.
  • Haven't even started appropriately marketing River City - so they think that there is lots of room there
  • Hotel yield system was just installed last month in St. Louis
  • Could seasonality explain why consensus for FY is so low?
    • Have 4 properties subject to difficult weather conditions in the 4th and 1st quarters
  • AC - any change in their view there?
    • They have done a lot to clean up the balance sheet.  AC has been very painful. They will not exit that market at a giveaway price. In the meantime they are trying to minimize the carrying cost.
    • It is possible that if they can't sell the land that they would consider a boutique hotel there
  • They are at the "top of the 3rd inning" in terms of marketing
  • Impairment charge was $4MM for this current quarter in relation to Baton Rouge design write-offs. Going forward the only other potential impairments can come from AC (book is $38MM). Book value and shareholder value aren't necessarily the same.
  • Tax credit was included in the G&A line
  • There is so much volatility in income taxes because of their reserve NOL's
  • Are they going to try to go the way of Harrah's with a national loyalty plan with a key destination?
    • They are focused on growth and building a loyalty culture
    • Their focus is to encourage cross play
    • They do want MyChoice to be their linking brand - they want their customers to know that they own multiple properties. They won't be changing their names.
  • Texas?
    • Continuing to monitor the situation. If something happens there, they will see if and how they can participate.

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