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POTASH: Cyclicality Returns

Mosaic (“MOS”), the world’s second largest fertilizer company, reported results this morning and missed consensus estimates and reduced forward production. While the “It’s Global This Time” enthusiasts have been arguing that fertilizer stocks are not global, a reduction of production by MOS seems to suggest otherwise and the stock is currently down more than 30% as a result. We have attached below a 5-year chart of POT, including our last post on the stock in which we which suggested that if “cyclicality” were to come back into play, so would gravity in POT’s stock price. It’s global this time, indeed.

Daryl G. Jones
Managing Director

COFFEE TRENDS – SINKING TO A NEW LOW

Dunkin’ Donuts said it would offer small lattes and egg and cheese sandwiches for 99 cents each at participating stores beginning today. The company is calling it “America’s Latte Break,” the promotion (which runs through November 11th) features small lattes for 99 cents on weekdays between 2 p.m. and 5 p.m. The egg and cheese sandwiches will be priced at 99 cents all day with the purchase of a medium or large hot coffee. , Dunkin' said. The chain’s lattes generally retail for between $2.59 and $2.79, depending on the size, and the egg sandwiches cost around $2. In addition to its latte promotion, Dunkin' Donuts said it was launching new advertising next month.

While I generally don’t believe there is much overlap between Dunkin’ Donuts and Starbucks, this is clearly going to eat into the marginal customer. More importantly, it will continue to put pressure on MCD’s rollout of its coffee program.

Now What?

Isn’t it inspiring to watch these partisan political speeches on the Senate and House floors? The people falling asleep in the background aren’t props – they get it. These are painful days for American Capitalism.

Bush’s SEC chief, Chris Cox, spent 17 years in those hallowed halls of said “free market capitalism.” Seventeen years in Congress! No wonder why the best thing he has going for him is his hair cut. When it comes to the intricacies of how modern American free markets trade, this guy is proving to have no idea. At the market top in 2007, he eliminated the uptick rule (paving the way for short sellers to sell stocks as they are going down), and now at the market lows of 2008, he blames those same people he empowered, calling them evil doers, and banning short selling altogether. This is both embarrassing and un-American all at the same time.

Last night, Cox and Co., moved the goal posts in the middle of the game again, pushing out the short selling ban to October 17th. This was pseudo expected by most of my contacts in the business, mind you no one had the specific date. This ridiculously random decision making by the said referee of the US stock market makes it virtually impossible for a hedge fund manager who actually manages risk to do so. As a result, my “Beware, October 3rd, 2008” call (www.researchedgellc.com, 9/19/08), renders itself null and void – the dates/rules are being changed so I need to change with them. One of the main drivers of that short term thesis was letting the short selling players back on the field. Instead, they may as well pull up a seat in the back benches of Congress and take a nap while this socialist circus plans its next act.

Over on the Senate floor, they finally passed the bailout vote. Hooray. Now we can slap this toxic waste on the US government’s balance sheet and really dig into what Goldman and Morgan Stanley didn’t want to show their shareholders. Isn’t this great news! Now what?

Contrary to domestically myopic economic beliefs, Asian investors have TVs and this American circus of reactive crisis management is being ‘You Tubed”… they see this emotional and alarmist behavior, and they sell into it. Regionalism is a becoming an unfortunate output as a result – expect it to continue. It remains global this time, but taking care of the locals appears to be a logical priority.

In Japan, the local mess is one of stagflation. The best thing investors can do in Japan is sell what they should have with the Nikkei 23% higher in June. Japanese stocks closed down another -1.9% overnight, despite CNBC’s fanciful notion that if they bring you a television broadcast called “Wall Street Crisis” and give you a “live” look on Asian markets reacting to a US Senate decision that Asians are dumb enough to follow the script of this compromised and perpetually bullish narrative. Japan was the worst performing market, but Taiwan, South Korea, Australia, and Indonesia all closed lower as well. Now what?

In Europe, markets opened stronger, but the “Trend” there remains broken. Markets like Ireland, that have been bludgeoned, are moving 500 basis points at a time, but Irish eyes aint smilin’ with stocks down -55% from their October 2007 peaks. Russia is not participating in the western European dead cat bounce this morning, trading down once again, taking the cumulative loss in the Russian Trading System Index to -52% since May alone. The worrisome combo of the geopolitical risk associated with “Regionalism” and economic growth slowing has former beacons of western capitalist hope (Poland, Ukraine, Romania, Czech, etc…) swooning. Now what?

In Israel, stocks are trading down over -2% this morning as reports are hitting the wires that American soldiers are being stationed “permanently” there for the first time in forever. Consider the tail risk associated with an Obama win, and an Israeli attack on Iran… now what?

I am writing this note from Canada this morning. In Minneapolis and New York yesterday, airports were as dead as I have ever seen them. Within this shameful political cycle, a nasty economic cycle is unwinding. Commodities had their largest down day this week since 1956. The 2nd largest fertilizer company, Mosaic, is trading down -20% pre open. Global travel titan, Marriott Hotels, is guiding down big. Toyota is doing the same. Asian currencies are melting down. Regionalism is challenging free trade. Socialism is challenging capitalism. Now what?

My downside targets for the S&P 500 is moving to 1109.

God Speed,
KM



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AND THE HITS JUST KEEP COMING

I guess Beijing isn’t satisfied with zero growth in Macau. Travel agents are reporting that visitation from Guandong to Macau is now limited to once every 3 months, down from once every 2 months. A Beijing official claims to be still evaluating the visa situation but I’m willing to believe the travel professionals.

Recent visa restrictions have had a material impact on mass market visitation to Macau, essentially removing all growth out of the market in September. Why would Beijing take it a step further and potentially throw the Macau gaming market into a recession? Beijing is a black box, no doubt, but I would surmise that the central government remains unhappy with Macau’s Chief Executive, Edmund Ho. Punishment for Mr. Ho’s public comments regarding Beijing’s continued influence? Possibly.

It could’ve been worse. Seemingly credible rumors of a 6 month visa restriction surfaced last month and pummeled the Macau gaming stocks.

Q3 Market Performance

The major index returns for Q3 2008 are outlined below. Interestingly, the Russell 2000 was only down -1.74%, which compares favorably versus all other major U.S. indices and aggregate hedge fund performance based on the numbers we have been hearing.

Russell 2000 -1.74%
Comp -9.24%
DJIA -4.67%
S&P500 -9.23%

Daryl G. Jones
Managing Director


LAND HO! LAND NO!

I wish I had a nickel for every time an investor brought up “hidden” assets as part of a long thesis on MGM MIRAGE. By hidden, of course, they mean land. I rarely see the same analysis for Boyd Gaming. Yet, BYD owns more developable land than MGM when viewed as a percent of enterprise value. As shown in the first chart, I calculate that the value of BYD’s land held for development comprises almost 20% of its enterprise value versus only 7% for MGM.
  • I’m certainly not advocating buying any stock for its land value right now. Land does have value that should be included in any valuation deep dive. The problem is that there is no market for land. I’m perfectly happy to argue that Las Vegas Strip acreage is worth $5 million or $10 million, but we don’t know until we actually see transactions at those levels. It is unlikely it’s worth $20 million per acre, as some analysts are still using in their target prices.
  • I’d put land value way down the last of why BYD looks interesting. More pertinent aspects of the thesis include liquidity, free cash flow, and the balance sheet. From a relative viewpoint, a land analysis is very instructive, however. Chart 2 compares BYD and MGM along 3 valuation metrics: EV/2009 EBITDA, (EV less land value)/EBITDA, and (EV less land and construction in progress)/EBITDA.
  • The beauty of this analysis is that it is relative and most of the land value for both BYD and MGM resides in Las Vegas (Strip and Locals). Any change in my assumptions for land value affects both companies. In these charts I value Strip land at $7.5m per acre, LV locals at $1m, and Atlantic City at $5m. I cannot defend these land valuations in a court of law. I only offer them up for comparison purposes.
  • The implications are clear. BYD is a much cheaper stock. You want to focus on land? Fine, BYD looks more attractive. Land is not important? OK. BYD looks more attractive.
MGM owns more developable land but BYD's is relatively more valuable
BYD is a lot cheaper no matter how you factor in land

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