The UK Sees Inflation

Position: Long Sweden (EWD); Short Italy (EWI), and Euro (FXE)


As was the case in Ben Bernanke’s testimony before the House Budget Committee today, it continues to amaze our team that The Ber-nank says he sees no threat of inflation domestically and has no concern that US monetary policy is contributing to massive inflation in global commodities. In contrast to Bernanke, both ECB President Trichet and BoE Governor King have expressed in recent weeks that 1.) they see inflationary pressures mounting, and 2.) they’ll appropriately address inflation through monetary policy. 


While we don’t purport to have a crystal ball to predict when central banks will raise main interest rates, the rhetoric from the ECB and BoE would suggest a much higher probability that they’ll raise rates sooner than the FED. In fact, we think the BoE will be the first to raise given the higher rates of inflation that the economy is being hit with.


In the UK, CPI has ticked higher over recent months –currently at 3.7% year-over-year—and data out today from the British Retail Consortium on the UK Shop Price Index showed further confirmation of this inflationary trend with price inflation for the overall index, and food inflation accelerating at the fastest pace in 19 months (see table insert in chart).


The UK Sees Inflation - pen1


We think in the near-term, and as soon as this quarter, it would be prudent for the BoE to hike to combat inflation. However, pinning the tail on the timing of a hike is exceedingly difficult, especially given that there’s significant concern that a hike would stymie the already weak GDP outlook for the country this year and next. No doubt the UK economy is in a tough policy spot. The chart of 2 year UK government bond yields below continues to warn of pressing inflationary risks.


The UK Sees Inflation - pen2


With the minutes of the last BoE meeting on January 13th showing a shift by most members to the upward medium-term inflation risks, we’ll take our cues from the action and any incremental statements from King and Co. tomorrow.


Matthew Hedrick



Solid quarter with good cost controls, particularly with regard to promotional activity. Here are our notes from the conference call.



“During the fourth quarter, we achieved year-over-year growth in net revenues, Adjusted EBITDA and Adjusted EPS, while maintaining a strong Adjusted EBITDA margin.  We believe the fourth quarter reflected signs of market stabilization in many of our markets that, together with the strength of our operating strategies, lays the foundation for our return to growth.”

- Gordon Kanofsky, Ameristar’s Chief Executive Officer



  • "Promotional allowances decreased $2.3 million (3.1%) ... The decrease in promotional allowances was mostly due to more efficient promotional strategies overall, and in particular, promotional spending relating to the November 13, 2009 bridge closure near our East Chicago property."
  • “We are extremely pleased with the fourth quarter financial results, especially considering that the bridge closure near our East Chicago property adversely affected the full 2010 fourth quarter but only about half of the 2009 fourth quarter, Ameristar St. Charles faced new competition beginning in March 2010 and we had already reached the anniversaries of our new hotel and favorable regulatory changes in Black Hawk prior"
  • Ameristar St. Charles: "The effective management of costs and the recapturing of market share during the fourth quarter of 2010 resulted in Adjusted EBITDA growth for the first time since the new competitor entered the St. Louis gaming market in the first quarter of 2010."
  • Black Hawk: "Our quarterly market share surpassed 28% for the first time"
  • "Our Vicksburg property declined in all key metrics, mostly due to an unusually low table games hold percentage in the 2010 fourth quarter that adversely impacted Adjusted EBITDA by approximately $1.1 million."
  • 4Q10 Debt: $1.54BN; Leverage ratio (total & sr): 4.76x
  • 4Q10 Capex: $19.8MM
  • “With the continuation of our key strategies and our ability to maximize revenue flow-through with our dynamic operating model, we are optimistic that 2011 should produce additional top-line and bottom-line growth.”
  • 1Q11 Guidance:
    • D&A: $26.5-27.5MM
    • Interest, net of capitalized interest: $24.5-25.5MM (including non-cash interest of $2.3MM)
    • Tax rate: 42-43%
    • Capex: $10-15MM
    • Non-cash stock comp: $3-3.5MM
  • FY2011 Guidance:
    • D&A: $105-110MM
    • Interest, net of capitalized interest: $98-103MM (including non-cash interest of $9MM)
    • Tax rate: 42-43%
    • Capex: $65-70MM
    • Non-cash stock comp: $13.8-14.8MM


  • Got more of their growth from market share growth than market improvement in the quarter
  • Ameristar St Charles seems to be faring better than other competitors in the face of new supply in St. Louis
  • 28.5% market share in Blackhawk - continue to garner more share in that market
  • Growth in E. Chicago - due to favorable weather comparison, more efficient cost control and lower promotional spend
    • Continuing to try to strengthen the property by renovating the hotel rooms and working with the city to improve access to the property
  • 4Q market share improved in Council Bluffs, without aggressive promotional spending 
  • East Chicago cost them $0.18, increased interest expense by $0.16 and competition in St. Charles impacted them by $0.12 for FY 2010
  • When they reach 4.5x leverage, their interest expense will decrease by 25bps - which should happen by mid 2011
  • Lapping of bridge closure and new competitor in St Charles will help them in 1Q and beyond
  • Capex is mostly KC hotel expansion and maintenance
  • Interest expense should decrease about $9MM in 1Q11' YoY due to swap expiration and lower debt levels.



  • Should generate $120-125MM of FCF which they will likely use to retire debt (interest expense guidance assumes debt reduction)
  • IL continues to be mired in its usual quagmire 
  • Indiana - relatively stable environment but there is talk of a smoking ban although casinos will likely get an incentive
  • Black Hawk - what is the opportunity there?
    • They do anticipate that the market will improve and that their operations will become more efficient - so there is potential for margin improvement. Think that they can operate the hotel with a little more efficiency.
  • In East Chicago, they continue to be supportive in efforts to replace the bridge but so far that isn't happening. There is some work going on to improve road access but it's going a little slower than they expected
  • Vicksburg market share?
    • 44%
  • 100 room, $14MM project in KC - open in 2012 - they expect to start construction in mid-2011 and will take 18 months or so to open the hotel
  • Will this be a normal year for slot spending?
    • Yes, they will continue to spend at their historical levels. Having a fresh floor has helped them gain share in many markets
  • What are non-operational professional fees?
    • Related to the evaluation of the sale of the company... there will be some continuation of those fees but they can't quantify them at this time.
  • Corporate run rate should be at $12MM per Q (excluding stock comp)
  • Have implemented some efficiencies that should help control costs. If revenues were flat, they expect margins to be flat
  • No opinion on Maritime exemption in Indiana. If it passes, it would help them
  • There was a little KC design spend in the capex 
  • Is 4x leverage still the goal for them?
    • No comment, but they could look to refinance some debt in 2011
  • Where have they pulled back on promotional spending and how sustainable are those cuts if consumer spending recovers?
    • No comment... but think that their changes are sustainable. That said they continuously monitor promotional spending.
    • Hope that as the economy recovers, the walk in customer returns- and that's a high margin customer
  • Any change in the rated/ unrated play?
    • Moderate yes- what they have seen in most markets are stabilization and in a few select markets, some modest improvement
    • As the economy declined, gaming lagged the rest of the economy in declining and think they will see the same lag on the recovery
  • FTE hasn't really changed - but full time/part time mix has shifted towards more PT
  • Have some cross play btw their markets but it's minimal (re: Q to cross market Black Hawk)
  • Market share gains were due to excess promotional spending at Black Hawk - they just need to be more focused on the cost efficiencies at the property


Likely earnings beats, higher estimates, and new junket business drive a favorable thesis.  Industry-wide junket liquidity/credit conditions remain our only concern.



The stock has taken one on the chin, not as bad as 0200.HK (Melco), but MPEL is down 11% in the last week.  So what’s driving the move down?  We think it is related to general Macau concerns - the weak start to February and the fear that Chinese tightening will constrict the Macau junket business.  We are not worried at all with the former but the latter should always be a concern.


As we stated when we posted the pre-Chinese New Year (CNY) celebration revenues for February, the numbers are irrelevant.  CNY-related gambling really didn’t begin until last Sunday and our guys on the ground are indicating huge volumes and traffic.  While we never bought into the hype of a HK$20 billion month, we are sticking with our projection of HK$17-18 billion.  Maybe that would disappoint some people but assuming MPEL maintains its share, the company would be on pace to easily beat Q1 estimates.


The second issue is real; although with all our contacts in Macau, we can’t say we’ve seen any indication of a liquidity driven junket slowdown.  We’ve statistically tested the relationship between Chinese monetary policy and junket volumes and the causal relationship has been real and significant historically.  However, the relationship broke apart during the last 6 months of tightening.  Does that mean it won’t be reestablished?  Of course not, and we are monitoring that closely.


So what are the positive catalysts?  A second blowout quarter in a row from the gang that couldn’t shoot straight for one.  See our 1/11/11 note, “MPEL: AN ENCORE PERFORMANCE” for the details.  Our EBITDA estimate is 20% above the Street for Q4.  The good times should continue as January was strong and Q1 estimates look too low.  So far during CNY, we are hearing that MPEL’s volumes and hold is strong.


Looking ahead to Q2, Galaxy could announce that the April opening of Galaxy Macau will be pushed back to June.  Cotai cannibalization on MPEL’s City of Dreams (CoD) has been a worry for investors.  An additional two months of CoD operating without the additional competition should allow for another beat in Q2.  Finally, we think MPEL could pick up some of SJM’s junket business in the coming months as we wrote about in our 01/27/11 note, “MPEL: FAMILY SQUABBLES AND OTHER CATALYSTS".

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MCD rallied 2.6% yesterday, but on no volume.  Given yesterday’s strength, we added to our short position in MCD in the Hedgeye portfolio.  Were January trends a game changer for MCD?  I’m not convinced.  Yesterday, MCD reported that January systemwide sales grew 7.4%, or 6.7% in constant currencies, against an easy comparison.  As we move through the balance of the year, these trends will slow. 


As you can see from the first chart below, the street is forecasting accelerating sales trends as we progress through the year with little impact on operating profit margins from higher inflation.


We believe that the street’s expectations are very aggressive, as reflected by our 2011 estimates, as shown in the second chart below.  We expect to see earnings revisions through the balance of the year. 






Howard Penney

Managing Director

R3: GIL, DSW, ADI, and Kmart



February 9, 2010



  • Requiring registration for an e-commerce site before allowing consumers to make a purchase may actually do more damage than good.  According to a survey by Janrain, 75% of consumers will avoid creating a new user account for an e-commerce site, with 54% leaving the site or not returning, 17% going to a different site if possible, and 4% leaving/avoiding the site.  Of those that actually take the time to register, 76% admit to providing incorrect or incomplete information.
  • Kmart is pulling out all the stops to elevate its image as an affordable fashion apparel destination.  To coincide with NY Fashion Week (beginning tomorrow), the company is launching @KMartFashion on Twitter,  social brand channels on Facebook and YouTube, a Spring ad campaign in Vogue, and the launch of a Concierge service which will service 50 editors, bloggers and fashionistas over the course of the week.  At the end of the day, we still remain skeptical that Kmart’s image will benefit from such efforts.
  • Management of “basics” maker Gildan suggested the price of cotton is likely to come back to trading in a range of $0.90-$1.20 next year following a ‘soft landing.’  With prices currently near $1.80, it would appear that management is suggesting current level are at or near peak. Price increases at retail still remain the biggest wild card over the back half as elasticity has yet to be tested in the modern retail era.  Socks and underwear are definitely categories to watch.



Marc Jacobs Open Pop-Up Shop - Robert Duffy has been known to reshuffle his enclave of Marc by Marc Jacobs stores on Bleecker Street in Manhattan when the mood strikes him, and the 10th anniversary of the secondary line is as good a reason as any. As of yesterday, the Little Marc store at 382 Bleecker has been made over into a pop-up shop housing a capsule collection of Marc by Marc clothes (women’s and men’s) and accessories reissued for the anniversary; the space will be open for two weeks, selling pieces such as military jackets, flag-print dresses, belts with fruit buckles for girls and T-shirts and field jackets for boys.  <WWD>

Hedgeye Retail’s Take:  With a mini real-estate empire in the West Village, the company remains creative in its efforts not only merchandise creatively but also to continuously rebrand specific stores.  Imagine if retailers with multiple locations in the same mall mixed things up on a quarterly basis?


Retail Stocks Hit New Post-Recession Highs - Retail stocks hit fresh multiyear highs Tuesday as investors fostered hopes that the consumer resurgence seen in January would continue. The S&P Retail Index jumped 1.5 percent, or 7.6 points, to 517.13 — its best close since July 2007. The Dow Jones Industrial Average increased 0.6 percent, or 71.52 points, to 12,233.15, a level not seen since June 2008. Retail gainers included Urban Outfitters Inc., up 5.6 percent to $37.06; J.C. Penney Co. Inc., 4.9 percent to $35.03; Chico’s FAS Inc., 4.2 percent to $11.95, and Dillard’s Inc., 3.9 percent to $42.04. Vendors also picked up steam, and among those logging new 52-week highs were Under Armour Inc., which closed up 2.3 percent to $66.99; Fossil Inc., 2.2 percent to $78.21, and Polo Ralph Lauren Corp., 1.7 percent to $115.77. <WWD>

Hedgeye Retail’s Take:  History suggests that January sales do little to establish Spring trends.  With that said, there’s no denying the year ended on a positive note with inventories clean and clearance levels low.


Copenhagen Goes Back to Basics  - Offering toned down, classic collections devoid of glitter and frills, brands showing at the Gallery, CPH Vision and Terminal-2 trade shows here last week during Copenhagen Fashion Week expressed a focused, back-to-basics approach. “The party is over. It’s more basic and simple, we’re looking for good solid brands as customers are willing to pay for quality items that last,” said Anja Torjusen, a buyer for Moshi Moshi, which has three stores in Denmark. Torjusen lauded Surface to Air’s collection and the sailor jackets by American label Fidelity. “It’s about being honest and connecting with real women,” agreed Sam Jones, fashion director of Style Passport, a soon-to-be-launched British online store specializing in beauty and fashion items for stylish vacations. So far, around 50 labels, such as Anya Hindmarch and J Brand, will be stocked by the site, which is due to go live on March 8th. < WWD>

Hedgeye Retail’s Take:   Don’t ignore the trends out of Copenhagen, which is one of THE places that many retailers and designers look to for cues.  It’s way too early to call a trend, but certainly Gap and American Apparel would come to mind of basics are on the rebound.


Nike Taps Exec to Head Affiliates Group -  Nike has named a new head for its affiliate division. Roger Wyett, VP and CEO of Hurley International, will become president of Nike Affiliates, overseeing Cole Haan, Converse, Hurley International and Umbro. Prior to Hurley, Wyett served as global VP of apparel for Nike. He joined the company in 1994 and will replace Eunan McLaughlin, who announced his retirement. <WWD>

Hedgeye Retail’s Take:   With a cash balance on the rise, the time may be nearing for the affiliates group to add an additional brand to its portfolio. 


U.S. consumers saw 4.9 trillion web display ads in 2010 -  Online display advertising continues to grow, according to a new report from web measurement firm comScore Inc. The report says U.S. Internet users saw 4.9 trillion display ads last year. That number stands to grow as more major brand marketers invest in all facets of online advertising. EBay led the way among retail-related sites with 36.8 billion impressions in 2010.  The comScore “2010 U.S. Digital Year in Review” report says that 104 different advertisers delivered at least 1 billion display ad impressions each in the fourth quarter, up 30% from 80 advertisers a year earlier. <InternetRetailer>

Hedgeye Retail’s Take:  Take note of the real estate on your screens, which continues to shrink as more and more ads get pushed your way. 


DSW to merge with Retail Ventures - Footwear retailer DSW Inc said it agreed to merge with its largest shareholder Retail Ventures Inc  in an all-stock deal, and raised its full-year outlook. Retail Ventures will become a wholly-owned subsidiary of DSW in a tax-free exchange of shares at an exchange ratio of 0.435 DSW shares per RVI share, DSW said in a statement.The merger eliminates the complexity and public company expenses associated with Retail Ventures, whose only operating business is its 62 percent stake in DSW, the company said. <Reuters>

Hedgeye Retail’s Take:  Overshadowed here by the transaction is the fact that sales accelerated in 4Q, coming in at 14.9% on top of a 12.9% increase LY.  So much for tough compares.


Adidas Sees 15% to 20% Annual Growth in China -  Adidas will grow 15% to 20% annually in China over the next five years and exceed 1 billion euros ($1.36 billion) in revenue this year, Adidas Chief Executive Officer Herbert Hainer in an interview on German television. He also expects the company overall to see significant growth this year after a strong 2010. "We have a very good 2010 behind us -- we have developed enormously well. And we will continue to grow in 2011," Hainer told Deutsches Anleger Fernsehen, according to Reuters. Adidas' full-year 2010 results are due on March 2. "We are lucky, that we have the women's soccer world cup and many other sport events on top of that (in 2011)," he added. <SportsOneSource>

Hedgeye Retail’s Take:   Nothing new here as China growth for most global brands with an established presence in the region are looking to grow by a similar amount.  What is surprising is that Hainer mentions the women’s world cup as a key driver of growth in 2011.  What about toning?



Notable news items and price action over the past twenty four hours.

  • MCD was added to the “Key Calls” list at UBS.  Shares are Buy rated with a price target of $86.
  • MCD’s largest global franchisee is preparing for a U.S. IPO, according to the Financial Times.
  • BWLD reported after the close.  Comps slowed and the Gap-to-Knapp went negative on a one-year basis.  Highly favorable chicken wing prices and other margin gains helped the company beat on the bottom line.
  • BWLD target raised to $55 from $52 at Deutsche Bank.
  • GMCR has been outperforming the QSR space and is not the best performing QSR stock over the last week and month.  Yesterday the stock gained 3.2% on good volume.
  • SBUX also saw its share price gain, by 2.4%, on accelerating volume.



Howard Penney

Managing Director