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Buffalo Wild Wings was shorted moments ago in the Hedgeye Virtual Portfolio.  From a fundamental perspective, this is one of our favorite names on the short side.

Buffalo Wild Wings’ share price has popped up 14% over the last week after trading below $60.  A sell-side upgrade generated some attention for the stock last week and since then BWLD has strongly outperformed the market.  The stock is currently being awarded an EV/EBITDA NTM multiple of 8.3x by the Street.  Only BJRI and DIN trade with higher multiples in the casual dining space.  The Hedgeye Macro Team’s current theme, “King Dollar”, has played out nicely and a corollary of that has been a strengthening of U.S. consumption.  While our longs have worked nicely under this macro theme, BWLD has worked less effectively over the past week than it had been.  From a quantitative and fundamental perspective, however, we are still bearish on the stock – at these prices, only more so.

We have discussed our short thesis at length: wing prices are heading higher in a hurry and this will greatly dilute the effectiveness of any promotional approach the company might take to driving comps, a strategy that worked well in 3Q.  Margins are likely to take a leg down and, while King Dollar is likely helpful for comps, we are pessimistic about the prospects of the company taking further price in the hyper-competitive discounting environment that exists in casual dining today.  At the same time, dropping price in 4Q and (especially) 1Q12 is a completely different proposition than doing so in 3Q11 when wing prices were down year-over-year.  1Q12 is the litmus test of this fundamental thesis; we expect wing prices to be up 50-60% year-over-year. 

This company has growth and that is part of the reason why it is being awarded a (relatively) rich multiple but we believe it is worth noting the G&A associated with that growth since much of it is focused in new markets.  On the 2Q11 earnings call, management had this to say:

“We underestimated in two areas for the second quarter: the one is the amount of money that we were putting into recruiting training managers, staffing, regional managers in these new markets on both coasts, where we don't have an infrastructure to do any of the training locally. So, a lot of travel expenses related to that that we – I just could not have fully captured in my estimate for the second quarter.”

From a quantitative perspective, the TRADE line of resistance is at $69.19, as illustrated by the chart below.

BWLD: TRADE UPDATE - bwld levels

Howard Penney

Managing Director

Rory Green