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Wal-Mart versus QSR

WMT is attempting to steal breakfast market share from QSR operators.

Nation’s Restaurant News reported that Wal-Mart is focusing a considerable amount of marketing dollars to steal breakfast sales. The company is now airing a commercial that asserts families can save $900 per year by having breakfast at home once a week rather than buying a fast food breakfast, which the commercial states can cost up to $5 per person. Wal-Mart is going after breakfast share at the same time most QSR operators have targeted breakfast as a new source of incremental sales.

Please refer to the link below to view WMT’s commercial pushing breakfast sales.

Capitalists Starting To Emerge

I read two interesting reports this weekend. One that talked about normalized earnings by sector, and the other that looked at the earnings revisions needed next year to justify current valuation. Both very well-done – that is, if Wall Street operated out of a University lecture hall. As for me, I’ve just about had it with focus on current earnings and revisions. There are bigger questions to be answered here. Who will exist in a year? Who will go away? Who is making the right investments today and will double market share? There’s tremendous value out there folks… (yes, that is McGough sounding bullish), but there are just as many value traps and potential zeros. Starting later today, you will see regular postings from our team that tears apart each company in the space and drills down each company’s asset value.

Those who have started to let their inner Capitalist shine?
1) Diddy/LIZ: P Diddy (Sean Combs) stepped up last week with a financial partner to buy Enyce from Liz Claiborne. The deal is for $20mm, which is a rather sad statement for LIZ given that it bought the brand for $114mm just 4 years ago.

2) PSUN/Adrenalina: Also last week, Andrenalina (AENA) which is a 2-store retailer/media outlet, bid on Pacific Sunwear, which has about 950 stores. Here’s a $20mm EV company bidding for a $300mm EV company. Conventional wisdom might not like this, but are there any rules against David buying Goliath? We’ll be seeing more of this.

3) Gap/Athleta: Though this was earlier in the month, Gap buying Athleta was one of the few truly smart moves I’ve seen from Gap in a while. All that cash needs to go somewhere.


PENN had already pre-announced Q3 so those details are mostly trivial. The major takeaways from the release are 1) less than toxic Q4 guidance, and 2) final regulatory approvals for the Fortress Preferred security are only days/weeks away, and 3) PENN looks like it serious about acquisitions.
I would characterize Q4 EBITDA and EPS guidance $145 million and $0.28, respectively, as pretty much right in-line with current consensus estimates. The official Reuters estimates are $146 million and $0.29 but they include dated numbers and typically slow moving outliers. Practically, given the recent deterioration in the economy and consumer confidence, the guidance looks pretty good actually.

Regarding the regulatory approvals related to the Preferred deal, management indicated a late October/early November closing. The cash has already been deposited with an escrow agent. This deal looks like it will close and that is good news.

Finally, in an interesting preview of how the company may deploy its excess liquidity, management is setting up an unrestricted subsidiary to invest in its own debt/equity or the debt/equity of other gaming companies. We believe the latter/latter is most likely. I wrote about an interesting transaction structure PENN might pursue in my 7/25/08 post “PENN: BASSET SWAPS AND VALUE CREATION”. As discussed, PENN could buy up another gaming company’s bonds on the cheap and trade them to the company in exchange for a coveted asset.

Economic headwinds remain and the November referendums could bring additional competition. However, PENN’s industry leading liquidity and balance sheet should lead to relative outperformance over the long-term, particularly considering the external credit crisis. Free cash flow is accelerating and should turn positive by Q2 2009. Likely due to the referendum overhang, the stock trades in-line with the peer group.
I personally own shares of PENN

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China’s Mix Shift Becoming More Ominous

A new policy in China’s Guangdong province, which builds 75% of footwear consumed in the US, makes clear the government’s intent to shift capacity to a higher value mix of goods.
China’s Guangdong province announced it will invest more than 50 billion yuan ($7.32 billion) in the next five years to implement a new labor and industry strategy, known as "Double Transfer," which aims to transfer labor-intensive industries from the Pearl River Delta (PRD) to less developed regions of the province. The end goal is to accelerate the PRD from a traditional manufacturing industry base to a center of service-oriented, advanced manufacturing systems. In other words….not footwear or apparel. As a sidenote, I estimate that close to 75% of US footwear consumption originates in the PRD.

So far, many small and medium-sized enterprises in the PRD have closed or suspended operation, with a third of footwear capacity closing over the past year alone. So many on Wall Street hit me with the ‘it’s cyclical argument’ in that once capacity becomes tighter in China, then pricing goes up and more plant space will be built. My view is that it is all about duration. If you’re talking 5+ years, then I agree. Anything less then the argument holds no water.

The Chinese government simply does not want the developed cities to be manufacturing low value goods. Semi chips? Yes. Cotton Ts? No. Proof positive of this is when the government instituted mandatory vacation back pay to apparel/footwear factories earlier this year. If you were a small factory on the brink of making money, you had to dole out cash too all employees at your factory for unused vacation over multi-years. Yes, the easier route in the decision tree is to close the factory doors.

The benefits of this ‘Double Transfer’ initiative to less developed parts of the PRD will help, but we’re talking about building up highways and infrastructure. This is more of a ‘next decade thing’ than a ‘next year thing’. Before costs start to come down due to more capacity, I think they’ll double at a minimum. The worst is yet to come, and those costs will flow through to marginal US brands and retailers.


“It’s like there’s a bunch of guys that are making it up as they go along… They talk about transparency and what they present is opacity, programs that don’t make sense, or are not yet fully laid out. This only increases the already high level of uncertainty and anxiety.”
-Anna Schwartz (co-author with Milton Friedman of “A Monetary History of the United States”)

For those of you who read Barron’s on the weekend, you’ll recall that quote from the 93 year old Anna Schwarz take on the US Treasury’s performance to date. She doesn’t carry a crackberry. She doesn’t hang with the “hedgies.” She reads, and thinks…

That cover of Barron’s was titled “More Pain” (with a bear taking a chainsaw to a bull’s head), and the #1 headline on Bloomberg this morning reads “Stocks plunge worldwide, US futures drop.” Suffice to say we are going to have ourselves a good old fashioned accountability check in the coming months. At least I don’t have to sound like I have an axe to grind anymore. People are figuring this all out… who did what and when… Facts are stubborn little critters aren’t they?

If you flip through Barron’s quickly, you won’t miss the full page inserts from Barclays and Merrill Lynch that read “Tax-Loss Harvesting” and “Support – Merrill really delivers on that promise.” Really? Do they “really” deliver? That’s a fascinating interpretation of their performance in 2008. That’s about as believable as John McCain sounds when he plays the theme song of Rocky and tells the 100 or so people at a rally in Ohio that he has Obama “right where he wants him”… or better yet, the Morgan Stanley advertising insert (Barron’s, 10/27/08, page 14) calling themselves “World Wise!”

After missing that this global economy is cyclical and that leverage can work both ways, I don’t need to ‘YouTube’ these firms and voices anymore. Like any man or woman who is guilty, they’ll show it off to you themselves – just give them and the lawyers time. Much to the chagrin of “Investment Banking Inc’s” conflicted and compromised business models of Christmas bonuses past, this truth will be told now. As Martin Luther King said, “a lie cannot live.” All of those finger pointers will be mailed mirrors. We might even order up some baby blue Tiffany bows for them, just to remind them of how good all that money smelled.

Global stock markets smell again this morning, badly – just how I like them. This week we will have both “Heli-Ben” cutting rates and month end performance marks for everyone who is still in this game. Winners and losers are emerging. The losers will tell everyone that it’s not their fault, “it’s the market”. That’s how the accountability rules on this Street used to work, so don’t expect anything less come Friday. I’m not sure how the math worked last year at October end, with the S&P 500 44% higher. I don’t recall PM’s sending incentive fees back to their investors with a note admitting that “it’s the market.” But heh, who’s keeping track of history…

Asian markets are marking some of the most expeditious declines in world history. Overnight, Hong Kong closed down the most since the Tiananmen Square crisis, losing -12.7% in one fell swoop. Philippino stocks lost -12.3%, and stocks in Thailand got tagged for another -10.5% loss. South Korean stocks actually closed up 0.82%, and that’s largely because the government cut interest rates by 75 basis points to 4.25%. Greenspan taught the world how to react to manias, just cut rates and never mind the leverage bubbles that will be born out of the process. By the time that occurs, everyone can throw up their hands and say “we’re shocked”…

The Shanghai Composite Index and the Hang Sang Index have lost -72% and -65%, respectively, since this same week of last year. The only thing that’s “shocking” about this is what you’ll find on the ‘You Tube’ rewinds from whoever it is you’d like to Google this morning. What did they say, and when? As appropriately, the question you should be asking yourself this morning is what are they doing now in anticipation of October 2009? Our answer is quite simple, buying stocks. We buy things in 3’s here at Research Edge. If we see our prices in FXI (China) or EWH (Hong Kong) this morning, we’ll be buying them, for the 3rd time. Importantly, we just started buying into these macro ideas in October of 2008. We were short them at this time last year.

Our ‘Hedgeye Asset Allocation’ model has the following exposures this morning: US Cash 75%, Canadian Cash 3%, Gold 3%, and Global Equities 19%. The US side of our equity exposure is only 6%, and we have expressed that with more of our “cash is king” theme, buying the Vanguard High Dividend Yield Fund (VYM). Otherwise, we bought Australia (EWA) on Friday, adding it to our equity ETF exposure in Germany (EWG), China (FXI), and Hong Kong (EWH). This puts us in a tactically sound position to be buying into any US market weakness as PM’s mark down positions into what was nothing short of a horrifying month for those who weren’t in cash.

For the month alone, the S&P 500 is down 24.8% to date. For 2008 to date, it’s down -40.3%, and since the October 2007 “it’s global this time” high of 1562, the S&P500 has lost 44% of its value. To borrow Morgan Stanley’s “World Wise” tag line, it pays to respect history and context here. The only worse peak to trough decline in the US market was during the Great Depression. If you or whoever is managing your money cannot find value here, I don’t think you or they ever will.

We have an S&P 500 downside target buy zone of 857.76 today. As the math changes, we will. If you ever want to be a capitalist, now would be a great time to start. Be your own process. Beat your own path. In a year from now, I’ll be reminding you of this note. I am Keith McCullough, and I support this message.

Best of luck out there this week,

Calling All CEOs: Watch the Rupee

The Rupee hit all-time peak and trough all in the same year vs. the dollar. Here’s an overview of winners and losers. But the bigger issue is which CEOs will lead zigging when everyone else zags.

The rupee is off 21.3% from highs hit earlier this year. It’s not the decline that matters to me as much as the rate of change. Think of it this way, the Rupee hit all-time peak and trough all in the same year vs the dollar.

Whenever evaluating FX changes in this business, one must always net out the sourcing change vs. the revenue translation change. The good news here is that most companies have failed miserably in any effort to grow in India.

On the cost side, there are clear opportunities to up the proportion of product sourced in India. Only 3-4% of our apparel and 0.5% of US-consumed footwear is sourced in India. To be clear, there are structural reasons why this is so low, the least of which are logistics and receptivity towards foreign direct investment. But if an Indian government that increasingly needs to bow to a populist positioning opts to lower the barriers for the US to tap into Indian labor and apparel sourcing capacity, then we could be looking at a net positive for the industry by sometime in 2010.

As it relates to revenue…
… there are few companies that have any presence at all. Interestingly enough, one of the top brands in India is Reebok – after years of Reebok endorsing the National Cricket team. This is one of the few brands where there is, in fact, a positive delta between Indian-denominated revenue and costs. We’re talking less than 3% for Adidas/Reebok, but there is exposure nonetheless.

As it relates to Nike, presence in India was fairly limited until Nike outbid Adidas and Reebok in 2005 for the contract to outfit the Indian National Cricket team. To those that do not know, Cricket is to India what Hockey is to Canada, Football (soccer) is to Europe, and Baseball/Football is/are to the US. Nike bid 1.97bn rupee in ’05 for this deal, which then equated to US$430mm over 5 years. The cost since escalated to $490mm, and with the recent correction in the Rupee, we’re now looking at $380mm. Why is this good? Mark my words, there is no way Nike is within shooting distance of making money on this endorsement contract. When total cost comes down more than total revenue, that’s generally a good thing.

VF acquired a 60% interest in a newly formed joint venture with India’s Arvind Mills to design, market and distribute VF- branded products in India for a total cost of approximately $33 million – or about 1x revenue. This largely covered its Lee and Wrangler subsidiaries. This business is not hugely accretive to the P&L, but it does in fact run at a profit. This is likely a topic VFC calls out in the coming quarters as an area for weakness.

Other specific call outs… Arvind is a key manufacturer and licensee to Phillips-Van Heusen, VF Corp, Tommy Hilfiger, and Cherokee Inc. Arvind has been manufacturing and distributing Phillip-Van Heusen’s Arrow brand in since their agreement in March 2008. Arrow was a 65 million dollar brand for PVH, 12.3% of PVH’s wholesale dress furnishings segment and 2.6% of total net sales in 2007. Arvind is one of nine Cherokee licensees and represents about 0.5% of total revenue.

The last, and by far the most important point to me is how CEO’s view India as a strategic risk vs. opportunity. Any time we see emerging markets blow up, the second tier players with no real strategy or reason for being run for the hills, write down assets, and find other geographies to ‘fish where the fish are.’ Case in point – check out the sheer number of companies that decided it was a good idea to invest in China over the past year AFTER a massive run in the currency (see our 9/18 post The Race To China).

But the winners will take that opportunity to invest capital despite near term pain to establish dominance to be in the pole position for when the market turns. This is what Nike did in Brazil, Argentina, and Mexico 5-years ago. It was #3 in those markets, and when they blew up, it invested and now it is #1 by a wide margin. Same goes for both Nike and Adidas in China.

This is an opportunity for CEOs to show some backbone and show that they really believe in their Brand and opportunity to execute.

Early Look

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