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Mr. Money Man

This note was originally published at 8am on February 24, 2011. INVESTOR and RISK MANAGER SUBSCRIBERS have access to the EARLY LOOK (published by 8am every trading day) and PORTFOLIO IDEAS in real-time.

“If history is any guide, this scenario will develop not gradually but abruptly.”

-Barry Eichengreen, (“Exorbitant Privilege” page 165)

 

Evidently a lot of investors didn’t prepare their portfolios for The Inflation. Some reconciled this mother of all inflation shocks in food prices as “supply and demand” imbalances. Some said everything was going to be fine because The Ber-nank said so. Some even said $4-5 at the pump is fine.

 

We’ve said that as Global inflation Accelerates, Global Growth Decelerates. This might be a little easier to see when you have a $100 handle on the price of oil per barrel. Inflation is both a policy and a consumption tax. Global inflation is also priced in US Dollars.

 

Sadly, with stock markets around the world getting rocked this week, the US Dollar continues to be debauched. There was a time when America’s independent price stabilizer (Paul Volcker) treated the US Dollar with respect. Today, our Almighty Central Planners are willing to watch the Buck Burn.

 

The math doesn’t lie here folks; professional US politicians do. For the week-to-date, here’s your US Dollar/Commodity Inflation score:

  1. US Dollar Index DOWN -0.33% for the week-to-date (down for 7 out of the last 9 weeks)
  2. CRB Commodities Index UP +1.7% to 347 (making a series of fresh weekly closing highs all the while)

Sure, there’s a nut-job out there in Libya, but there’s also a very blunt instrument that can take his grandstanding on “fighting to the last drop of blood” away – a STRONG US DOLLAR policy.

 

Most American stock market fans definitely don’t want the short-term tough love associated with that. If anything, the perma-bulls are already cheering The Ber-nank on to implement Quantitative Guessing III (QG3) as a weapon against Gaddafi’s self-destruction.

 

The reality is that if The Ber-nank and Timmy Geithner woke up this morning and unilaterally raised interest rates and took a whack out of this Disaster Deficit, the US Dollar would strengthen and the price of oil would drop in a straight line.

 

This, of course, isn’t going to happen. Instead we are fostering a finger pointing and unaccountable political leadership class that continues to frustrate Americans to the core.

 

While Timmy Geithner was self-aggrandizing himself yesterday with his banking cronies from Dollar Destruction Inc., someone asked him what he thought about the price of oil’s impact on the US economy – and I couldn’t make this up if I tried, but he said that the economy that he helped put into crisis (before he helped saved us all from it) “can handle it.”

 

The Twitter-sphere lit up like a Christmas tree after Timmy said that – and The Rest of The World erupted in laughter. He must have been joking, but Bloomberg reporter Rich Miller didn’t seem to think so - and I couldn’t make this one up if I tried either – as Miller recapped the Geithner Groupthink session yesterday with this morning’s Bloomberg headline:

 

“GEITHNER BUTT OF JOKES NO MORE AS OBAMA’S MONEY MAN NOW ON TOP”

 

On top of what? The Disaster Deficit, The Burning Buck, or the resume pile to go join the Pandit Bandit at Citigroup? The manic media pandering to the political winds of Washington, DC access is both frightening and sad. Arianna Huffington, nice sale!

 

Don’t worry, I can answer the Wall Street question on, “how do you make money on this”? I laid this out in Friday morning’s Early Look note titled “Hawkish Winds” and my Global Macro positioning in being bullish on The Inflation remains the same:

  1. LONG - Dollar denominated food and energy Inflation
  2. LONG - Currencies of countries with hawkish central banks
  3. LONG - Financials in socialized countries that have made banks too big to fail
  4. SHORT - Sovereign Bonds of countries with deficit and currency devaluation central planners
  5. SHORT - Currencies of countries with dovish central banks
  6. SHORT - Emerging Markets

As for managing around the implied mean-reversion risks associated with the institutional investment community in America chasing the “flows” rather than the Global Macro fundamentals, my strategy on US Equities is this – trade them like the Price Volatility Casino that your central bankers sponsor.

 

After all, as Timmy reminded his fans at the “Bloomberg Breakfast” in Washington, DC yesterday, “central bankers have a lot of experience in managing these things”!

 

Indeed they do Mr. “Money Man”, indeed.

 

My immediate term support and resistance levels for the SP500 are 1306 and 1330, respectively. If 1306 in the SP500 doesn’t hold on a closing basis, I think this -3% correction in US stocks starts to resemble a February 2008 like crack. That wasn’t a good crack.

 

Best of luck out there,

KM

 

Keith R. McCullough
Chief Executive Officer

 

Mr. Money Man - oo1

 

Mr. Money Man - oo2


CHART OF THE DAY: The "Flowwwzzz" Work Both Ways (see: 2008)

 

 

CHART OF THE DAY: The "Flowwwzzz" Work Both Ways (see: 2008) -  chart


The Flows

“The quality of the imagination is to flow and not to freeze.”

-Ralph Waldo Emerson

 

For those of you who dial into the Hedgeye Morning Macro Call every morning at 830AM EST, you know that the title and topic of this Early Look note is dear to my Canadian heart – The Flows.

 

In institutional investor speak, The Flows are where the fees are. For bulls, they foster the imagination. For bears, they focus the mind. The Flows represent your moneys. In a world “awash with liquidity” and sovereign debt, we don’t think you should trust. Bernanke Bubbles beware.

 

Last year, they flowed you into US Treasury Bonds and Emerging Markets. This year, outflow-you-go into the “safe havens” of US and Japanese stocks. Like the promise of Bernanke “buying bonds” in 2010, the promise of not “fighting the Fed” bears US stock market fruits from the heavens. Do not freeze men and women of the risk management gridiron. The chase for the last Dollar Debauched drop of equity returns is on.

 

The problem, of course, arises when The Flows run into these little critters called The Fundamentals. Understanding full well that our view of The Fundamentals is often 3-6 months ahead of Wall Street/Washington consensus (yes, sadly, they are now one and the same) is what it is – since October, our Global Macro view of the fundamentals remains Global Growth Slowing as Global Inflation Accelerates.

 

Thankfully, not every institutional investor understood the repercussions of Quantitative Guessing II (QG2) on Global Inflation Accelerating back then. Now those who bought US Treasury Bonds and Emerging Markets are being reminded that what flows into a said haven, flows out…

 

From EPFR Global, here’s the latest on The Flows (per their February 18th report):

  1. USA/Japan/Europe (Equities)  - “Investors pumped $47 billion into equity funds in the U.S., Europe and Japan this year after pulling $17 billion in 2010 and $28 billion in 2009.”
  2. Bonds Funds - “Investors added $2.44 billion to bond funds globally this year as of Feb. 16, down from $11.1 billion during the same period in 2010.”
  3. Emerging Markets - “Investors pulled $1.9 billion from developing nation stock mutual funds in the week to Feb. 23, the fifth week of outflows.”

Now, as we like to say at Hedgeye, what happens on the margin in Global Macro matters most. And on the margin, The Flows into the stock markets of Developed Economies have been huge. The most important risk management part of that last sentence is “have been.”

 

How long can The Flows trump The Fundamentals? How much risk gets entrenched into an asset class when the storytelling starts to follow the natural confirmation bias of positive price momentum? How many times do we need to see this movie before we learn the lesson?

 

These are all questions that have a much clearer answer now versus then. Whether you look at the opportunities to short US and Emerging Market Equities into the peaks of fund flows of 2007 or shorting the mountain tops of a bond market bubble in 2010, history writes itself as of last price.

 

As a risk manager who is shorting things almost every day, I need to be really sharp on timing and price. While many institutional marketing messages preface their buy-and-hold strategy with “you can’t time markets”, we should all be very thankful for that – many of them can’t. What we’re doing is preserving capital and making probability-weighted decisions, daily, with a fundamental Global Macro research overlay.

 

On the scoring of Growth and Inflation, this morning’s Global Macro Grind has some positives, but more negatives:

 

POSITIVES

  1. Germany – unemployment fell to another new low of 7.4% and German Equities continued higher to +6% YTD (we’re long EWG)
  2. Canada – unlike US growth which was revised down again last week, Q4 GDP growth surprised to the upside (we’re long FXC)
  3. India – the government cut taxes and sent the stock market up +3.5% (we covered our short position in IFN at last week’s low)

NEGATIVES

  1. China – Producer Manufacturing Index (PMI) hit a new 6-month low of 52 last night (we’re long CYB as China continues to tighten)
  2. Mexico – Unemployment continued higher sequentially to +5.4% versus 4.9% last month (we’re short EWZ on Latin American inflation)
  3. Iran – Consumer price inflation (CPI) was up to +15.8% in JAN vs 12.8% in DEC (that’s before this massive oil spike and is instigating tensions)
  4. Japan – Industrial Production slowed again sequentially in JAN to +2.4% y/y vs 3.3% DEC (we covered our short position in EWJ last week)
  5. Spain – Consumer price inflation (CPI) was up again sequentially in FEB to +3.4% versus +3.0% in JAN (we have no position in Spain)
  6. USA – US Consumption in JAN, adjusted for inflation, was negative for the 1st month in a year (we’re short MCD, TGT, and XHB)

But there is no but in The Flows. They are what they are until they stop. All the while, I’m most certainly not going to freeze with a strategy to short-and-hold. For the last decade, that hasn’t worked inasmuch as buy-and-hold hasn’t . Not in a market where professional politicians are sponsoring a Burning Buck, The Inflation, and Price Volatility… We have America’s sad State of political leadership to thank for that.

 

My immediate-term lines of support and resistance for the SP500 are now 1311 and 1343, respectively. The US stock market should make another lower-high today – one that you should outflow from, provided that US Dollar Debauchery continues to sponsor Global Inflation.

 

Best of luck out there today,

KM

 

Keith R. McCullough
Chief Executive Officer

 

The Flows - flo1

 

The Flows - flo2


Daily Trading Ranges

20 Proprietary Risk Ranges

Daily Trading Ranges is designed to help you understand where you’re buying and selling within the risk range and help you make better sales at the top end of the range and purchases at the low end.

GENTING SING: GOOD>BAD

The receivable balance doesn't concern us. Mass slowdown does but we can't overlook the huge VIP volume growth and impressive operating cost control. 

 

 

We think Genting's Resorts World Singapore (RWS) may be in a better spot relative to expectations and valuation than LVS's Marina Bay Sands (MBS).  The valuation disparity is obvious but the higher VIP growth profile, particularly with junkets coming online, could allow RWS to continue to grow its market share.  On the negative side, the market appears to be focused on the growth in receivables but we'll tell you why we don't think this is an issue. 

 

The recent quarter was solid and the outlook is pretty favorable.  We've got a lot of detail in this note because we think the company and financials are very misunderstood by the analysts.  For instance, the Street seems to be assuming that all the tax revenue was accounted for in expenses.  In fact, Genting Singapore actually deducts Goods and Services Tax (GST: 6.54%) from revenues which is the correct methodology according to IFRS.  The incremental gaming tax (5% for VIP and 15% Mass) is accounted for in expenses.  For this reason, on an apples-to-apples basis, RWS revenues will be lower than MBS's with EBITDA unaffected, thus resulting in higher margins for RWS.

 

 

Details & thoughts:

  • On the topic of Genting’s rather large receivable, we are less concerned than our sell-side brethren.  The S$450MM credit receivable (approx 75% of the trade & other receivables balance) is no doubt large.  However, it’s important to put the receivable in context of the massive amount of direct VIP business that RWS does every quarter.  RWS did almost 6x the direct play volume of Wynn Macau.  Wynn Macau’s quarterly receivable has ranged from 2.1-2.7% of direct RC volume – in comparison, RWS’s receivable of 2% quarterly RC doesn’t seem so out of whack.  Once the filings come out for the Macau names, we will spend more time analyzing the receivable issue. On the surface though, growing the receivable in-line with RC growth doesn’t seem to raise any red flags.
  • On the call, management said that RWS’s share of gross gaming revenues was 58%, which given what MBS reported, implies that the property produced about S$1BN.  According to our estimates gross gaming receipts were S$982MM, with gross VIP receipts closer to 65% than the 60% management stated on the call.
    • VIP gross win of S$639MM
      • Drop of S$22.8BN. Mgmt said volumes were up 40% QoQ
        • On the 3Q call management sited that they had at least 53% market share of RC volume – which implies that 3Q had at least S$16.3BN RC volume
      • Hold of 2.8%. Management sited that hold was on the low end of 2.8-3.0%.
    • Net VIP win of S$331MM
      • Rebate rate of 1.25%. While on the call, management sited that rebate rates had not changed sequentially, offline they elaborated that they had a large mix of “high rollers” which earn a higher rebates (rebates are based on volumes) and stated that the rebate rate in the quarter was between 1.2-1.3%
      • GST of S$23MM
    • Net VIP was 51% of total net gaming revenues – in-line with management commentary
  • Gross Mass Revenue of S$343MM and net mass revenues of S$321MM
    • Gross slot win of S$120MM and gross mass table win of S$223.4MM
    • Mass revenues declined in the single digit range sequentially according to management – primarily due to weaker holder comparisons on mass play
    • We also understand that Slot handle was flattish sequentially and that win per device was down
    • We assume that Mass tables held at 16% compared to guidance of 16-18% for last quarter. As an aside, RWS will typically have lower hold then MBS given that only 60% of their table games are baccarat – a much lower mix than MBS.  They are adjusting that mix this quarter, so hopefully there will be some improvement.
  • We estimate that net gaming revenue was S$652MM or 84% of total net revenues, which is in-line with the 80-85% number that management sited on the call
  • For the other nerds out there – the correct tax calculations are as follows:
    • GST (contra revenue):  (Gross gaming revenues – Rebates)* (7/107)
    • Gaming taxes (expense): (Gross gaming revenues – GST)* appropriate mass or VIP tax rate
  • As we’ve written about in the past, it does appear that almost all the gaming growth has come from VIP market while Mass volumes appear to have barely budged since 2Q2010. This is obviously not ideal since the VIP business has lower margins (rebates) and carries more credit risk – which is definitely the topic of concern and focus in the analyst community with the 40% increase in Genting’s trade and other receivables balance.
  • Despite having a cap of 8,000 daily visitors, Universal’s average daily visitation exceeded the cap since there were many open dated tickets issued to travel agents that were expiring by year end and were therefore redeemed. On February 21st, concurrent with the opening of Battlestar Galactica, Genting removed the visitation cap completely – so the visitations numbers going forward should reflect true demand.  The company expects that average daily visitation will exceed 10,000 per day in 2011. 
  • On the hotel side, this past quarter saw a shift in business focus from travels agents to FIT.  Going forward, RWS will continue to focus on growing their FIT business, and therefore, we should see rates and ADRs go up a bit.  When the West Zone rooms open in the later part of 2011, they will be largely focused on the VIP customers and growing the VIP business.
  • Total costs remained flat at $390MM, despite a 6% sequential net revenue
    • We estimate that fixed costs declined sequentially due to some one-time provisions that were made in the third quarter.
    • Gaming taxes and other variable expenses should have all increased given the increase in volumes.
  • Other stats:
    • Gross casino revenues per day: S$10.7MM
    • EBITDA per day: S$4.2MM

 

Outlook:

  • While management concedes that the focus was on VIP this quarter, they insist that they are catching up on Mass and that we should see nice sequential growth in Mass drop in 1Q2011.
  • Management also alluded to both volumes and luck being better in 1Q2011
  • Currently, RWS has 1,400 slots but plans to get to 1,600-1,700 slots by year-end with roughly 500 Electronic Table Games
  • Junkets are now expected to come online in the 2H2011 vs previous guidance of end of 1Q2011. The holdup in approval is related to the upcoming elections in Singapore, which are expected to occur in May.  Typically, the government avoids any controversial decisions during the election period.
  • 1Q2011 preliminary projections:
    • Net Revenues: S$890MM
    • EBITDA: S$482MM
  • 2011 preliminary projections:
    • Net Revenues: S$3,581MM
    • EBITDA: S$1,850MM

THE HEDGEYE DAILY OUTLOOK

TODAY’S S&P 500 SET-UP – March 1, 2011


Equity futures are trading above fair value as markets show plenty of resilience despite continuing turmoil in the Middle Eastern. Yesterday's momentum came on the back of renewed M&A excitement, better than expected Chicago PMI, a positive headline personal income report.  As we look at today’s set up for the S&P 500, the range is 32 points or -1.22% downside to 1311 and 1.19% upside to 1343.

 

 MACRO DATA POINTS:

  • 7:45 a.m.: ICSC weekly sales
  • 10 a.m.: Bernanke testifies about Fed monetary policy
  • 10 a.m.: Treasury’s Geithner at House Financial Services Committee
  • 10 a.m.: Construction spending, est. (-0.4%), prior (-2.5%)
  • 10 a.m.: ISM Manufacturing, est. 61, prior 60.8
  • 11:30 a.m.: U.S. to sell $40b in 4-week bills, $25b in cash- management bills
  • 4:30 p.m.: API inventories

EARNINGS/WHAT TO WATCH:

  • Bernanke begins 2 days of semiannual testimony on monetary policy today.
  • U.S., European nations promise humanitarian aid to Libya, begin planning for a no-fly zone as leader Muammar Qaddafi declares  “my people love me”, sends forces to regain lost territory. 
  • The proposed auction of Blockbuster is being opposed by Walt Disney. Disney, with a $9.2m claim for merchandise shipped to Blockbuster after it filed for Chapter 11, said in a filing yesterday in U.S. Bankruptcy Court in Manhattan that the proposed bid favors the secured lenders over Blockbuster’s other creditors
  • General Mills, Nestle among leading bidders for 50% stake in yogurt maker Yoplait being sold by PAI Partners, four people familiar with the process say.
  • U.S. House plans to vote today on a budget measure aimed at preventing a government shutdown while lawmakers debate spending levels for the rest of this fiscal year. Republican proposal would cut $4b by targeting a handful of programs while keeping almost all agencies at current spending levels until March 18. Failure to enact a measure by March 4, when current spending authority ends, would force the government to close

PERFORMANCE:


We have 6 of 9 sectors positive on TRADE and 9 of 9 sectors positive on TREND.

  • One day: Dow +0.79%, S&P +0.56%, Nasdaq +0.04%, Russell 2000 +0.18%
  • Month-to-date: Dow +2.81%, S&P +3.20%, Nasdaq +3.04%, Russell +5.40%
  • Year-to-date: Dow +6.40%, S&P +5.33%, Nasdaq +4.88%, Russell +5.08%
  • Sector Performance: - Materials +1.08%, Energy +0.77%, Consumer Spls +0.58%, Healthcare +1.11%, Utilities +1.13%, Industrials +0.24%, Tech +0.42%, Consumer Disc +0.76%, Financials 0.47%

EQUITY SENTIMENT:

  • ADVANCE/DECLINE LINE: 1091 (-752)  
  • VOLUME: NYSE 1257.46 (-31.66%)
  • VIX:  18.35 -4.35% YTD PERFORMANCE: +3.38%
  • SPX PUT/CALL RATIO: 2.30 from 1.88 (+21.80%)

CREDIT/ECONOMIC MARKET LOOK:

  • TED SPREAD: 17.05 -0.406 (-2.326%)
  • 3-MONTH T-BILL YIELD: 0.13%
  • 10-Year: 3.42 from 3.46
  • YIELD CURVE: 2.70 from 2.73

COMMODITY/GROWTH EXPECTATION:

  • CRB: 352.58 +0.37%; YTD: +5.94%  
  • Oil: 97.38 -0.93%; YTD: +4.62% (trading +0.42% in the AM)
  • COPPER: 449.65 +0.93%; YTD: +1.34% (trading -0.07% in the AM)  
  • GOLD: 1,411.90 +0.28%; YTD: -0.33% ( trading +0.16% in the AM)  

COMMODITY HEADLINES:

  • Oil fell the most in two weeks as Saudi Arabia offered to make up for supplies lost because of unrest in Libya and on reports the North African country is exporting crude. 
  • Grains, Sugar May Drop as Farmers Increase Output, Yields, Australia Says
  • Copper May Slide as Chinese Manufacturing Figures Fan Concern About Demand
  • China May Invest in Australian Dairy, Livestock in Food Security Search
  • Coffee Rises to One-Week High on Speculation Vietnam Supply to Be Limited
  • Commodities in Longest Winning Streak Since '04 Beat Stocks, Bonds, Dollar
  • Pakistan Signs Contracts to Ship 3.075 Million Tons Wheat, Exceeds Target
  • Australia Forecasts Increased Cotton, Sugar Production, Decline in Wheat
  • Gold May Advance as Unrest in Libya, Weakening Dollar Spur Investor Demand
  • China Copper Premiums Slump to Zero as Overseas Prices Outpace Local Gains
  • U.K. Royal Mint Gold-Coin Production Doubles as Bullion Climbs to Record
  • Rubber Climbs for First Time in Eight Days as Decline Attracts Investors
  • Noble Group Seeks More Mongolia Coal Deals to Add to Rising Energy Profit 

CURRENCIES:

  • EURO: 1.3792 +0.28% (trading +0.38% in the AM)
  • DOLLAR: 76.889 -0.50% (trading -0.15% in the AM) 

EUROPEAN MARKETS:

  • FTSE 100: +0.37%; DAX: +0.75%; CAC 40: +0.56% (as of 04:58 ET)
  • European markets mainly trade higher aided by firmer markets across Asia and constructive European economic data.
  • Corporate results were mixed.
  • European Commission raises 2011 GDP forecast for euro region to 1.6% from 1.5% and says inflation may remain above ECB limit for most of the year.
  • Peripheral markets were shrugged by Germany's Finance Minister rejecting any easing of the terms for Ireland or Greece's bailout package.
  • UK Feb Nationwide house prices (0.1%) y/y vs con (0.3%)
  • Feb final Manf PMI: France 55.7 vs con 55.3; Germany 62.7 vs con 62.6; Eurozone 59.0 vs con 59.0
  • Germany Feb unemployment rate +7.3% vs con +7.4%
  • UK Feb Manf PMI 61.5 vs con 61
  • UK Jan mortgage approvals 45.7k vs con 43.0k

ASIAN MARKTES:

  • Nikkei +1.22%; Hang Seng +0.25%; Shanghai Composite +0.48%
  • Asian markets were higher this morning, encouraged by stable oil prices and signs growth slowed in China which eased concerns surrounding further tightening measures.
  • India led the region higher by 3.50% buoyed by automakers after the finance ministry didn't raise excise duties on automobiles.  In India, Tata Motors was up over 4% and Maruti Suzuki was up over 6%
  • Chinese PMI hit a six month low in February of 52.5 vs 52.9 in January
  • Australia's central bank left its benchmark rate unchanged at 4.75%, as expected

 

Howard Penney

Managing Director

 

THE HEDGEYE DAILY OUTLOOK - levels 31


FL: Expecting the Expected

Foot Locker reports 4Q earnings on Wednesday 3/2 after the market close, followed by a conference call on Thursday morning.  We continue to expect a solid 4Q result, with our model forecasting EPS of $0.43 well ahead of the Street at $0.37.  The cornerstone of our forecast is a 6% same store sales increase coupled with gross margin expansion at the upper end of the guided range (+300 bps y/y).  We note that promotional activity during the quarter was low, with very few promos occurring beyond the traditional holiday period.  Recall that management suggested going into the quarter that they would strategically reduce promotional cadence if “sales were good”.  We believe this was the case.  

 

Beyond the quarter, which almost seems like old news at this point, we expect an update on the company’s strategic priorities for 2011 as well as some high level guidance.  We remind investors that we do not expect Foot Locker (and specifically CEO Ken Hicks) to change its policy regarding conservatism.  As such here’s a list of what we do and do not expect to hear on Thursday’s call.  We also include several questions that we’d like to hear answered as current management anniversaries its first year on the job.

 

EXPECT TO HEAR:

  • A step up in the company’s use of its cash balance primarily on share repurchase and capex.  Capex should be north of the $110 million (up $10-$20 million) spent in 2010, with the incremental spending going towards store remodels and systems upgrades.  We would not be surprised to see some incremental capital put towards the company’s e-commerce platform, which to some degree has been stagnant for a few years now.  We expect the cash balance to be approximately $625-$650 million with the biggest variance coming from the possibility that share repurchase activity picked up during the quarter.  The current repurchase plan had $215 million remaining on it at the end of 3Q.
  • An update on where the company stands on year over year changes in merchandising.  Through the fall, 60% of the assortment (primarily apparel) had been changed.  Expect the number to be between 80-90% updated through Spring.
  • Inventories are likely to have ended the year down 2-3% on an absolute basis as the company continues to work towards its turn goal of 3x.  Guidance for inventories in 2011 should be down slightly.
  • Store closings for 2011 should be well below 2010 levels.  Expect 40-50 closings which represents a more “normalized” rate given lease expiration and real estate portfolio management.  FL closed approximately 110 units in 2010, with most shuttered over the first three quarters of the year.  Recall that the turnaround prospects for Foot Locker are not centered on shedding assets but rather on making the 3,500 store chain more productive. 
  • An update on the company’s banner segmentation efforts, which through 3Q were also about 60% complete. Recall that this process includes marketing and merchandising each of the company’s five core brands separately with a focus on unique customer segments.
  • An update on the company’s testing efforts as they pertain to RUN by Foot Locker, CCS test stores, mobile marketing/e-commerce, and merchandising exclusives.

DO NOT EXPECT:

  • Guidance in the press release or specific EPS guidance.  Management’s history suggests that high level guidance will be provided on a conservative basis.  Same store sales, inventories, gross margins, and SG&A will all be addressed.  We do not expect any surprises here but still remain above Street expectations for 2011. Our estimate calls for $1.40 vs. the Street at $1.25.

WOULD LIKE TO KNOW: 

  • How big  was the 2011 increase in co-op advertising?  It appeared in 4Q that TV impressions were up substantially but at what (if any) cost?  How is Foot Locker measuring advertising effectiveness now that each of the major brands are firmly behind the company’s resurgence as the leading global seller of athletic footwear?
  • What is being done to jump-start the performance of the company’s e-commerce platform?  When is store pick-up and real-time store by store inventory going to be a reality for the consumer? With double-digit EBIT margins, even modest growth here could and should be meaningful to the bottom line.
  • How are the product trends in the US (running, basketball, toning) translating into Europe and Asia?
  • When can we see more House of Hoops-like collaborations with your vendors? 
  • If an NFL lockout occurs what impact may this have on this year?  Would this possibly help the impending launch of Nike’s NFL license given pent up demand may result from a NFL-free year?
  • What if anything will Allen Questrom be focused on with his recent board appointment? He has a history of changing company cultures and attracting human capital.  Will the organization see changes as a result?
  • What have been the biggest challenges so far in re-assorting the company’s apparel programs, both private label and branded?
  • What does a successful exclusive launch of UA basketball mean for future collaborations? (same for Li Ning? Is it significant enough to move the needle?)

Eric Levine

Director


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