Our notes from BYI's pre-G2E Sunday presentation.


Management Commentary

  • Alpha 2 platform and first alpha 2 games
    • Uspin technology
    • iView network/sale pipeline
  • BYI preliminarily selected by the British Columbia Lottery Commission and Ontario Lottery Gaming Corporation as the systems provider - 20,000 games (3,500-4,500 per game); still going through the procurement process. If they are contracted, installations would begin summer 2011 at the earliest and would take a few years to deploy.
  • Systems:
    • In the last few years, systems hasn't grown much : 206, 212, 218, 220-235mm in FY2011. Although, the economy has been challenged as well.
    • Average of 2.4 new customer sites added per month. Have about 615 clients now.  This is equivelent to 1,700 slot machine additions per month. Customer slots - 418k connected worldwide through BYI systems.
    • Top peforming casinos use BYI:
      • LA: 13 of the top 17
      • IN: 8 of the top 12
      • NY: 6 of 8
      • PA: 6 of 9
  • For FY2008-2010, BYI has had 149 major new installs ,201 upgrades, and 245 add-ons
  • Core products:
    • Multi-property (few companies have this function)
    • Universal card (few companies have this function)
    • Offline ticketing (will continue to print even if system goes down)
    • Live floor view
    • Smart card
    • 2 way downloadable credits
    • Game reservation (allows customers to lock games for 30 minutes so no one else can play them)
    • High limit jackpot
  • Table View:
    • Have over 80 sites and almost 4,000 tables connected. Sold more table views last year than all the years combined (won all of PA); added 2,500 tables.
    • Only system where casino doesn't need to replace chips or tables - Optical chip recognition and automated bet tracking - not RFID
  • Revenue generating products:
    • iVIEW DM only floor-wide solution
    • Supports all protocols (which their competitors' windows can't do)
  • On 1,200 devices at Pechanga - with iView.  Wheel allows them to market to customers at the point of play.  Virtual racing app: carded play, rated play and card requested all increased.
  • The virtual racing--will come out in a series of games
  • Drink ordering tool allows them to advertise certain alcohol and make money that way
  • Also can send customer rewards right to the game instead of mailing stuff to their house
  • Also allows them to market perishable inventory (food/hotel rooms/show tickets)
  • New casinos: 70k slots--3500 per game--is 245MM opportunity
  • WMS's bonusing only works on their own devices.  WMS's bonusing isn't integrated into the casinos' systems. Today, WMS's systems are approved as gaming devices, not systems.



  • 70% of their systems revenue has been generated from their existing customer base. Canada is obviously new.  It's been 70% for the last 3 years. When an existing customer has a new opening, they count that in the 70%.
  • The $3,500-4,500 price in Canada doesn't include maintenance revenue.  Maintenance starts 90 days after go live.
  • 3 of the top Konami salespeople joined them over the last few months.
  • Canada RFP for units:  doesn't think that winning the system will help with slots. Alberta was awarded to IGT and Speilo 50/50.
  • IL - still see it as a large market but it can slip into the Dec '11 quarter.  Think that they have a good product there. Time frame of IL roll out - best guess is 6 quarters.
  • Acqueduct timing: plan to open April/May 2011 at 50%.  Numbers should be better than Yonkers.
  • Part of what they did to improve their video product was open up lots of studios - former ALL guys, WMS guys and Atronic deal no deal guys. Alpha 2 is also a better platform. Have 50% more studios.
  • Australia - expect it to be breakeven, maybe a penny this year, but after that, they expect it to contribute 5 cents per year. But they also expect to be able to export the successes they have there back to the USA.
  • Thinks that WMS's lawsuit is about Cash Spin.  BYI just filed a response to WMS's suit.
  • IGT anti-trust and bonusing still left - not expecting any news on that for 6 more months.
  • Feel like iView DM pipeline is pretty exciting.
  • Can put it on a competitor's system but are staying away from that now. Applications will be initially licensed but can switch it to recurring revenue.
  • Out of the 420k slots connected - 100k can't do bc of economics and then half don't have high speed internet; so about 150k slot opportunity for iView DM. Marketing department limitations for customers are also a barrier.
  • Cool new games:
    • Love Meter
    • Cash Wizard
    • Golden Pharoah - has a horizontal wheel
    • Alpha 2: 4 screens, speaker system, emotive lighting, hot zones, iDeck.
    • 260 games at show


Conclusion: I walked away from a recent meeting with management with a very clear impression that things are mending and the consensus is taking the “wait and see” approach.   


As measured by our Casual Dining sentiment monitor, EAT is at the bottom of the pack.  As I told this to Brinker’s CFO, Guy Constant, I noted that all the great concepts in the restaurant space have been there at one time or another: MCD, SBUX, WEN and DRI to name a few.


His response was that the sentiment around Brinker’s stock is like a “badge of honor.”  I thought this was a positive indication, given the context, of how this CFO thinks.


A major component of the EAT thesis I outlined in my Black Book earlier this year was the company’s focus on operations with the aim of expanding margins and improving the guest experience.  Soft sales trends in recent quarters are adding a sense of urgency to improve both the front and back of the house from an operational perspective.  The 187 bps improvement in restaurant level operating margins in the past quarter was evidence that those efforts are taking hold.


The Street’s wait-and-see approach is clearly focused on the top line.  There is some evidence of improvement in September, with Chili’s same-store sales declining only 0.8% when adjusting for the one week calendar shift that resulted from the fact that fiscal 2010 was a 53-week year relative to 52 weeks is fiscal 2011.  The real evidence will be seen when we turn the calendar and begin to focus on the second half of Brinker’s fiscal year 2011.


As we head into 2HFY11, an acceleration of the sales will be evident for the following reasons:


(1)    Chili’s is lapping the introduction of menu changes that caused sales to decline last year

(2)    “2 for $20” is to become permanent menu item; this will be incremental to sales in 2HFY11

(3)    In January, Chili’s will be rolling out a new lunch menu focused on gaining traction in a day part that has been challenging for the company.


By the time sales trends start to improve (3Q of FY11), management expects to have fully implemented the margin initiatives across the entire Chili’s system.  The prospect of a combination of improved sales flowing through a more streamlined restaurant suggests that Brinker should begin to enjoy positive sales trends in conjunction with positive operating margin growth.  On a quarterly basis, I track the operating status of companies depending on their sales and margin growth and divide the space into four quadrants.  The top right of the chart – what I call “Nirvana” – is where I see Brinker in 2HFY11.  As an aside, my last examination of the “Nirvana” group indicated that, on average, companies operating at that level trade at approximately 9.5x NTM EV/EBITDA. 


Currently trading at 6.1x EV/EBITDA, EAT is trading at a multiple just slightly above RRGB at 5.9x.  The difference between the companies, and their respective prospects, couldn’t be any more clear.  RRGB’s management team has no control over their business trends.  Additionally, EAT is trading at a discount (on an NTM EV/EBITDA basis) to RUTH, CPKI, MRT and RT, all of which lack the size, scale, and brand presence that Chili’s has.  The strength of Brinker’s balance sheet and their cash flow generation are two other strong differentiators.  I am not surprised that Brinker’s CFO relished the company’s lowly standing in the sentiment stakes; he knows that the only way is straight up.


EAT - A BADGE OF HONOR - eatsent


EAT - A BADGE OF HONOR - eat matrix


Howard Penney

Managing Director


Management strikes out in attempting to pitch a 14x multiple deal at an 8-10x valuation.



A bird in the hand is worth two in the bush, or so the medieval phrase goes.  Unfortunately, Caesars’ management wants you to buy $3.32 billion worth of EBITDA in the bush versus the $1.77 billion of actual EBITDA in the hand.  With significant negative free cash flow and 11.5x leveraged, where do I sign up?  We call ball four on this deal so the prudent thing would be to take a walk. 


At the midpoint of the $15-17 offering range, the valuation looks to be around 14x 2011 EV/EBITDA.  We use the face value of the debt rather than book value which is over a $3 billion difference and a 1.8x EBITDA turn. 


This must be a Macau stock, right?  We think there should be close to zero value ascribed to Macau.  What about other development opportunities and hidden assets?  Even if they could find the money, Japan would be a long shot for them, and Texas, PA, and Ohio would cannibalize existing CZR properties.  Finally, while we do think World Series of Poker has brand equity, internet gaming in the US just took a major step backward with the Republicans taking over the House.


While we do agree that current EBITDA levels are close to trough, there is a lot of Kool-Aid to drink for one to believe in $1 billion in incremental recovery EBITDA.  Here is the Kool-Aid recovery scenario:



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JCP: Is Bad Actually Good?

Conclusion: A low quality quarter from JCP might actually add support to those in the Ackman camp.  Importantly, this quarter did little to change our mind that JCP is still facing fundamental challenges near and longer term.


From a fundamental perspective, JCP’s 3Q results did little to change our view on being short the shares.  The quarter was driven by two key factors, a slight miss on original topline plans offset by a measurable and unexpected level of SG&A savings.   Clearly not the quality quarter management and anti-activist investors were looking for.  But, with the company under the watchful eye of Ackmanism, the worse the business and its prospects become, the more challenging it becomes for management to fight the company’s largest shareholder. 


Overall there were a couple of key takeaways coming out of the quarter:


  • Inventories remain higher than they should be given the current run rate of sales.  On a 0.2% increase in 3Q revenues, inventories ended the quarter up 6.2%.  Weak outerwear sales at the end of October are partially to blame for part of the inventory build, but we still see some risk here if expected same stores of 3-4% over 4Q fail to materialize.  Either way, JCP remains the only player in the moderate department store space running inventories meaningfully ahead of sales growth.
  • Expense savings saved the quarter on a slightly weaker than planned comp.  SG&A dollars were expected to grow 2% but actually came in down 3.8%.  While this flexibility is noteworthy on a short-term basis, it did result in a $50 million after-tax swing in earnings (all things being equal) or about $0.21 per share.  Absent similar cost cuts, which we believe are counter to actually improving the JCP customer experience, there is minimal longer-term opportunity to continue to manage expenses down on an absolute basis.  Furthermore, the addition of the “growth brands division” will likely put pressure on the expense line as infrastructure, personnel, and marketing will require incremental investment.
  • Management’s announcement that the company has formed a “growth brands division” to pursue new concepts and additional growth vehicles is not exactly what capital preservationists and those looking for enhanced shareholder value are looking for.  The fact is JC Penney is not a growth company, nor are there any successful examples of a department store operator incubating, managing, and growing a successful specialty concept.   As reported in the Wall Street Journal yesterday and confirmed today, JCP will be developing an off-mall, big and tall concept as well as focusing on a younger consumer with an eye towards e-commerce growth.  Even more interesting is that these initiatives fall under the company’s 5 year plan to add $5 billion in incremental revenues but yet there was no mention of such plans when the original plan was unveiled in the Spring.  Bottom line, off-mall full line stores haven’t really moved the needle for the enterprise and it’s unlikely a specialty concept will either.
  • The issue of rising cotton and sourcing costs is nothing new but management noted that they are now encountering some factories which are not accepting orders due to input cost uncertainty.  While these orders primarily center around goods to be manufactured for Fall ’11 delivery, the data point is noteworthy. If this becomes a more widespread stalemate between manufacturers and suppliers, there will likely be capacity constraints come next year.  For now, this is something to watch.

JCP: Is Bad Actually Good? - jcp


Eric Levine


The Week Ahead

The Economic Data calendar for the week of the 15th of November through the 19th is full of critical releases and events.  Attached below is a snapshot of some (though far from all) of the headline numbers that we will be focused on.


The Week Ahead - cal1

The Week Ahead - cal2


On the Road

This note was originally published at 8am this morning, November 12, 2010. INVESTOR and RISK MANAGER SUBSCRIBERS have access to the EARLY LOOK (published by 8am every trading day) and PORTFOLIO IDEAS in real-time.

"Behind us lay the whole of America and everything Dean and I had previously known about life, and life on the road. We had finally found the magic land at the end of the road and we never dreamed the extent of the magic."

-Jack Kerouac, On the Road


Jean-Louis Kerouac, or Jack as he was more popularly known, was the leader of the beat generation and is one of the most well known American novelists of the last half decade.  I recently took a break from my weekend readings of the Economist, Barron’s, Grant Interest Rate Observer, and other similar publications that make my girlfriend go to sleep, to reread Kerouac’s classic, On the Road.


I think it is fair to say that most type “A” investor types operate in stark contrast to the beat generation, and in particular to the writing style of Mr. Kerouac.  In 1950, Kerouac outlined The Essentials of Spontaneous Prose, which was an overview of his style of writing - a style which emphasized the unplanned spewing forth of ideas, emotions, experiences and so forth.


Our CEO Keith McCullough wrote his own book, which came out earlier this year, titled, Diary of a Hedge Fund Manager.   Far from being the spontaneous prose of a beat, the book is a well thought-out overview of the last decade of Keith’s journey in the world of Hedge Funds.  As one reviewer wrote:


“In telling his story, McCullough may end up inspiring a whole new generation of Wall Street achievers and innovators. He may also succeed in tipping a few sacred cows and instilling new paradigms for investing before all is said and done.”


Admittedly, I may be a little biased as I appear in the book via my nickname Jonesy a few times, but I would recommend you consider it as a stocking stuffer in the upcoming holiday season for that emerging fund manager in your family. ( )


Coincident to reading Kerouac’s book, I was literally on the road this week.  I flew out to Colorado Springs to participate in a bi-annual forum with a subscriber of ours, Huntley Thatcher Ellsworth Advisors ( Aside from being very innovative in the ETF field, twice a year the folks at HTE get up in front of their clients, put on the accountability pants, and talk about what they got right, what they got wrong, and what’s next.  At the forum, I gave a presentation titled, “Should U.S. Debt Be Rated Junk Status?” and then participated in Q&A. An interesting question that came up a number of times from the audience was: should we own gold?


As we think about gold, it is pretty simple.  If the dollar continues to get debased, gold will go higher.  So longer term, it is likely an asset you want to own if you believe the dollar is going lower.  That fact is, if there weren’t monetary value in gold stock, the U.S. Federal Reserve wouldn’t be sitting on over 8,000 tonnes of gold and not selling it.  In the short term, we aren’t long gold and have highlighted a key reason in the chart of the day below, which shows the dramatic increase in the price of gold over the past few months juxtaposed against a recent front page New York Times article, “In Anxious Times, Investors Seek Cover in Gold.” If newspaper and magazine covers aren’t the best contrarian indicators, they are close. 


Another topic we discussed was the implications of Quantitative Easing, the monetary policy more popularly known at Hedgeye as Quantitative Guessing.  Our view is that QE will lead to inflation, without the commensurate pickup in economic activity. While we can debate whether we are seeing inflation in the U.S., globally we are seeing it.  In fact, yesterday Chinese CPI accelerated dramatically.  As Darius Dale wrote to our subscribers yesterday:


“Chinese October inflation numbers came in white hot this morning.  CPI accelerated to a 25-month high of 4.4% Y/Y and PPI also quickened substantially to 5% Y/Y.”


Chinese inflation will lead to one thing, Chinese tightening. If you don’t think that has global growth implications, then you haven’t turned on your Bloomberg terminal yet this morning. In the anticipation of tightening, Chinese equities are down more than 5% and the commodity complex is getting taken behind the barn and shot. Copper is down 2%. Silver is down 2%. Cotton is down 3.6%. Sugar is down 3.4%. It seems we may not have to guess as to the implications of Quantitative Guessing much longer.


My last road trip to Colorado Springs was about 15-years ago when Keith and I were members of the Yale Hockey team.  (Keith was a little quicker and I had a little more hair back then.)  We were playing Air Force in a two game series.  As I recall, Keith was suspended for the weekend and we were swept by Air Force. (Keith would likely suggest there was something to that correlation.)  Ironically, the Yale hockey team is back in Colorado Springs this weekend taking on Air Force and Colorado College.  Much has changed in the last 15-years, including the fact that Yale is now ranked 3rd in the country.  Let’s hope the Bulldogs find the “magic land at the end of the road” this weekend.


Keep your head up and stick on the ice,


Daryl G. Jones

Managing Director


On the Road - 1

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