Chipotle posted 1Q11 earnings after the market close.  Comps once again were strong, and EPS came in slightly above expectations.  Margin contraction, showing up for the first quarter since 4Q08, was what stood out most.


CMG once again topped street expectations, printing 1Q11 diluted earnings of $1.46 per share and 12.4% comparable restaurant sales growth versus consensus at $1.44 and 9.4% for EPS and comparable restaurant sales, respectively.  However, unlike the previous eight quarters, this 1Q11 raised some clear issues for the company: slowing sales trends and accelerating inflation.


Management maintained its prior guidance of 135-145 new restaurant openings for 2011 and an effective tax rate of approximately 38.3%, however, full year comparable restaurant sales growth guidance was raised to “mid-single digit growth” from “low single digit growth” a couple of months ago. 



Comparable-restaurant sales growth


As the chart below indicates, comparable restaurant sales grew 12.4% in 1Q11.  This implies sequential growth in the two-year average trend of 110 basis-points.  The comp was primarily driven by traffic during the quarter, with price adding 0.7%.  Also contributing to the top-line growth was an online promotion ran in conjunction with the America’s Next Great Restaurant television show where customers who viewed a video promotion could visit Chipotle and receive two burritos for the price of one.  In excess of a million customers visited Chipotle restaurants to redeem the offer.  Management estimated that the promotion, running for two weeks, added nearly 1% to the overall comp in 1Q.


While management raised guidance from “low” to “mid” single digit growth for the year, 1Q comparable restaurant sales growth was so far in excess of guidance that the increase in annual guidance does not alter my view on where comps will likely be for the remainder of the year.  Maintaining two-year average trends roughly flat with the trend in 1Q (excluding the online promotion) over the next three quarters implies a steep step-down in comparable restaurant sales growth over the remainder of the year. 


However, it is worth noting that assuming these two-year average trends going forward could prove aggressive.  The one-year comps required to such a trend would imply comparable restaurant sales growth of roughly 7% for the year.  Furthermore, management struck a cautious tone on the earnings call when addressing the top line.  Firstly, compares become progressively more difficult over the next three quarters, as management pointed out.  Secondly, most of the effective 0.7% price increase that was on the menu in 1Q rolls off during 2Q.  A price increase in the Pacific region stores, including California, of about 4.5% has brought menu prices there in line with the rest of the country.  The Pacific region has the highest cost of business for CMG than any other region.  Although prices have been increased in this market, management stressed that the company plans to wait until the third quarter to assess the impact of inflation and customer reactions to a possible price increase.





Inflationary headwinds starting to move the needle


Management maintained its cautious tone when transitioning to discussing costs.  Food costs are obviously front-and-center for restaurant companies at present but, given CMG’s largely unlocked commodity basket, the topic is particularly pertinent for this stock.  During the first quarter, food, beverage and packaging costs increased to 32% of sales (roughly 175 basis points year-over-year).  Sequentially, food costs increased approximately 100 basis points, as a percentage of sales, and management estimates that about 60 basis points of this was due to higher tomato and produce costs due to the freeze in Mexico and Florida.   The remaining 40 basis points relates to underlying inflation in items such as beef, chicken and avocados. 


While the effects of the freeze in Mexico and Florida will fade as we roll through the year, other factors will “more than offset” this benefit in the second quarter, according to management.  The most significant pressure that was highlighted was on avocados which, it was estimated, will add 50 to 60 basis points to food costs during 2Q due to a lower harvest than expected.


As the company considers its options on price in the third quarter, depending on how commodity costs impact margins over the summer months, it is important to note that the current growth in comparable restaurant sales is driven almost entirely by traffic.  The extent to which a price increase adversely impacts traffic will obviously require the close attention of management.   Clearly if management’s concerns around commodity costs are well-founded, the likeliness of a price increase seems to have heightened significantly since the 4Q10 earnings call.


One interesting aside is that corn prices, highlighted by CMG as a driver of meat prices during the 3Q10 earnings call, continue higher.  During the last earnings call corn was trading at $7 per bushel, currently the grain is trading at $7.43 per bushel. 



Labor cost uncertainty


Chipotle has generated plenty of headlines this year due to an ongoing federal investigation into the company’s hiring practices.  Clearly I do not know how that will flush out, but the hiring and retraining of new employees, immigration experts, improved software systems to monitor documentation of workers, and other related expenses are not likely to help labor margins.  It is encouraging to hear of new kitchen initiatives that will be margin accretive from an energy and labor perspective, but there is clearly some uncertainty surrounding the potential outcomes of the current investigation.  Management was reluctant to even address a “worst-case scenario” outcome of the labor scandal.





Timing the 2011 Headwinds


During the 3Q10 earnings call, management stated that margins at CMG can be maintained “so long as we continue to see some comp growth – and we typically need something mid-single digit – generally with normal inflation”.  1Q11 saw margins roll decline year-over-year with a better-than-expected comparable sales number of +12.4%.  With a far tougher compare in 2Q (8.7% in 2Q10 versus 4.3% in 1Q10), comps will likely slow significantly and – as management highlighted – commodity pressures will almost certainly be greater.   I would expect 2Q food costs, as a percent of sales, to increase by 200-300 basis points versus the year prior. 


With slowing comparable restaurant sales and increasing costs, the decision to pass on price to the customer is a momentous one.  Management assumed a confident tone when assuring investors and analysts on the earnings call that Chipotle has pricing power, and that independent surveys support that view, but this is difficult to know until the price increase is implemented.  The impact may vary from market to market and much could depend on the macro environment at the time.  With gas prices and consumer confidence going in the wrong direction – up and down, respectively – it is certainly a risk.  Following  a couple of years of stellar performance and a seemingly teflon business model currently being awarded a 19.5x cash flow multiple by the street, CMG is playing a high-stakes game.


Howard Penney

Managing Director


Read-Throughs from Singapore's Upcoming Election

Conclusion: We expect recent concessions to help return the PAP to power with a sweeping majority. Moreover, we expect further sheltering of the Singaporean consumer/voter in the form of additional tightening via currency revaluation. Given, we remain bullish on the Singapore dollar for the intermediate-term TREND.


Position: Bullish on the Singapore Dollar for the intermediate-term TREND and long-term TAIL.


Yesterday, it was announced that Singapore will hold general elections on May 7, which came as a slight surprise to us, given that they could, in theory, be held anytime before February 2012. Less surprising, however, is Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong and President S.R. Nathan’s decision to dissolve parliament in an effort take advantage of Singapore’s robust 1Q11 economic growth rate(s) to subtly influence an increasingly less content voter base to re-elect their party to power.


This may turn out to be a shrewd move, given the consensus view of “uncertainty” surrounding the global economy. From our vantage point, however, there’s nothing uncertain about it – the dominant macro theme we’ve maintained since just before the beginning of the year is that “growth is slowing as inflation accelerates”. Our quantitative models have Singaporean GDP growth slowing in 2Q11 and the trend in Singaporean CPI accelerating into the early summer.


To a large extent, Singaporean officials agree with these forecasts; the central bank’s 2011 CPI estimate was recently revised up to the upper end of the 3%-4% range and the somewhat hasty call to hold the election in the next few weeks tells us that they think growth is setup to slow from here as well. At the bare minimum, they don’t have a near-term acceleration in their GDP forecast; if they did, they would’ve likely scheduled the election for a later date.


To protect their party’s current 46-year stranglehold of the city-state’s officialdom, the People’s Action Party (PAP) is doing what it can to “buy votes” in the form of cash handouts (see: February’s “Growth Dividend”) and accommodative rhetoric (see: recent immigration concessions). All in, 87 parliamentary seats will be contested in the upcoming vote; 82 are currently held by PAP lawmakers. Moreover, the party won the 2006 election with 67% of the vote – down from 75% in 2001. Any further erosion in their margin of victory could potentially force the PAP to favor more populist legislation, on the margin.


Regarding the key election issue of immigration specifically, the PAP has recently hinted that it would slow the intake of immigrants, which, on the margin, is bearish for Singapore’s long-term growth potential, given that tax incentives aimed at highly-educated foreigners have helped Singapore grow its population by nearly 20% in the last five years alone. On the flip side, disgruntled natives have made their complaints about crowded public transportation, increased competition for labor, and less prime housing availability as loud as ever in recent months. Accelerating consumer prices is also something the government will have to continue to address, likely through tighter monetary policy.


Net-net, we expect recent concessions to help return the PAP to power with a sweeping majority. Moreover, we expect further sheltering of the Singaporean consumer/voter in the form of additional tightening via currency revaluation. Given, we remain bullish on the Singapore dollar for the intermediate-term TREND – particularly against the USD, which is currently hinting at a crash in the coming months. Stay tuned.


Darius Dale



Read-Throughs from Singapore's Upcoming Election - 2

Europe: Sweden Hikes Rate as PIIGS Tumble

Positions in Europe: Long British Pound (FXB)


Sweden raised its benchmark repo rate 25bps today to 1.75%, the sixth time since July 2010. Today’s hike further confirms the proactive policy measures taken by Sweden’s central bank (Riksbank) and government to in particular control inflation and spur investment. (Please see our note on 4/15 titled “Sweden in the Sweet Spot” for our fundamental take on the country).  The Swedish Krona reacted favorably to the hike, rallying against all major currencies this morning and to its strongest level against the USD since August ‘08!  As the chart below presents, we’ve seen associated strength in the Krona vs the USD with every rate hike since July 2010, a trend we’d largely expect to continue throughout the year.


Europe: Sweden Hikes Rate as PIIGS Tumble - Sweden1



-We continue to express the severe turn we’ve seen in the capital markets of Europe’s peripheral countries while also noting a slight negative inflection in the data from Europe’s larger (and fiscally sober) countries like Germany, France, and the Netherlands.


Yields Ramp for PIIGS


Today both Spain and Portugal issued debt. Recent weeks have shown a strong reversal in the trend we saw in early 2011 of PIIGS issuing debt at lower yields than previous auctions, largely a response to the commitment from China and Japan to buy European debt.


Spain sold €3.4 billion of treasury bonds at auction today and the 10YR yield jumped to 5.472% versus 5.162% in March. Interestingly, Portugal issued €320 million of six-month bills today at nearly the same yield as Spain’s 10YR, or 5.529% versus 5.117% on April 6.


The clear take-away here is the risk premium imbedded in owning Portugal’s debt, which should continue to heighten as the size and structure of an EU/IMF-led bailout of Portugal remains at large, and given the election results in Finland that saw the euro skeptic/anti-bailout parties take voting share (for more see our post on 4/18 “European Risk Monitor: Peripheral Risk Pops as Finnish Elections Inflect”). As a calendar catalyst to monitor, the expectation is for a bailout of Portugal in mid-May, ahead of the June 5 election date set by the current interim government.


A familiar chart of 10YR bond yields of the PIIGS (below) continues to be telling of the debt refinancing headwinds these countries are bumping against. Greece’s 10YR hockey stick yield is now at 14.65%!


Europe: Sweden Hikes Rate as PIIGS Tumble - yieldsheut



Data Drag


Yesterday Reuters issued its initial April reading of Manufacturing and Services PMI for Germany, France and the Eurozone. A notable call-out is the inflection in the German Services PMI number, registering 57.7 in April versus 60.1 in March.  We called for the German Services number to mean revert in a post titled “Germany’s Marginal Turn” on 4/12, with the tag-line that the 60 line is a historically heavy resistance level.  Eurozone Services also declined month-over-month, falling to 56.9 in April versus 57.2 in March.


We think the inflection in some of the high frequency data is a reflection of the marginal slowing in European growth expectations (especially in Germany) and that the slight dip or deceleration in consumer and business confidence reflects inflationary pressures and continued macro volatility, including sovereign debt contagion in Europe, instability in MENA and around Japan’s nuclear reactor(s) and rebuild, and US political indecision regarding its debt and weak USD policy.


Of note, tomorrow we get German business expectations from the IFO survey. The March figure turned down to 106.5 vs 107.9 in February. We think we’re likely to get a lower April figure.



Currency Positioning


We have a positive bias on both the EUR and GBP versus the USD due primarily to USD weakness. Due to the strong daily push/pull headline risk in Europe on the common currency, we view the EUR-USD as a trade to monitor on a daily basis. That said, we have a bullish immediate term outlook on the EUR-USD, with TRADE levels at $1.42 - $1.45, and think that Portugal, like Greece and Ireland, will be bailed out by the EU/IMF, which is increasingly being priced in.


The Bank of England continues to signal a hawkish stance on interest rates, however has not come off its 0.50% benchmark rate. The most recent BoE minutes show 6 votes against to 3 votes for a rate hike. Importantly, BoE head King recognizes inflationary threats to the economy, a position ignored by Ben Bernanke at the Fed, and in our opinion a major dislocating factor feeding USD weakness.


Besides our long position in the British Pound (FXB), we have no other current European country or currency position in the Hedgeye Virtual Portfolio. We covered our short position in Spain (EWP) on weakness on 4/18 for a TRADE, but remain bearish on the country’s outlook over the long-term TAIL.


Matthew Hedrick


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Notable news items and price action from yesterday, along with our fundamental view on select names.

  • CAKE estimates were raised at Janney driven by superior positioning within the casual dining segment, as well as recently improving segment sales trends.
  • YUM’s Taco Bell is going on the offensive.  After the plaintiff dropped a law suit over Taco Bell’s beef, the company is now looking to set the record straight via various media outlets and reiterate that its products’ quality has not been compromised.
  • MCD’s first National Hiring Day was awarded with a strong response from job seekers.  The company planned to hire 50,000 people in one day, boosting its staff by about 7%.
  • WEN and PZZA both traded down on accelerating volume.
  • KONA, CAKE, and BJRI shares gained on accelerating volume.  CAKE and BJRI report today after the close.  RT shares declined 2.7% on accelerating volume.  The stock is down 11% over the last thirty days.




Howard Penney

Managing Director


Galaxy posts another strong quarter




  • GEG Group EBITDA of HK$712MM
  • Starworld EBITDA HK$664MM and revenue of HK$5,726MM
    • Turnover: HK$151BN
    • Win %: 2.9%
    • Net win: HK$4.4BN
    • EBITDA margin under GAAP would have been 23%
    • Annual ROI of 69% as of 1Q11
    • Occupancy 97%
  • City Clubs EBITDA of HK$57MM
  • Construction materials EBITDA of HK$68MM
  • Galaxy Macau on schedule and budget for May 15th opening
    • initial opening: 1,400 rooms, 50 F&B outlets, 30 retail shops, 450 tables and 1,100 slots
  • Cash: HK$4.2BN
  • "In 1Q 2011, all of the HK$1.3BN convertible notes converted into 173MM shares of common"


  • HK$11BN has been invested into Galaxy Macau as of March 31st.  7,600 team members on opening day.
  • Will conduct full simulations for 3 weeks before opening - with 8-10k people
  • Actively exploring developing plans for their remaining land bank


  • Have 7,100 employees on the payroll at Galaxy Macau currently
  • Target return is mid to high teens for Galaxy Macau
  • Will operate 10 VIP / junket rooms upon opening Galaxy Macau
  • Split between Mass & VIP tables: 150 VIP and 300 Mass
  • What are they doing on the promotional front for Galaxy Macau?
    • They have been working their marketing program with Banyan Tree and Okura for a year now 
    • Working with travel executives in all the main Chinese cities
    • Visiting travel agencies throughout agency as well
    • Engaged in digital marketing through social media and through their website
    • Program of taxi cabs, buses, and MTR station advertising in HK (first of its kind that MTR has done - they have the exclusive right to advertise inside the station)
    • Have over 70 shuttle buses that will be operating in Macau 
  • They are moving some of the tables from Starworld to Galaxy Macau

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