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SHLD: Our Take On SHLD Decision Tree

Take one bad company, merge it with an even worse company, then comp negative for the better part of 7 years on a levered balance sheet, and the balloon being held underwater is bound to pop sooner or later.


Could Sears really be reaching the end of its lifeline? If you want to read into the CIT debacle, the answer might be yes. We’re certainly not privy to Sears’ near-term financials, but the reality is that when you take one bad company and merge it with an even worse company and then comp negative for the better part of seven years on top of a levered balance sheet ($4.5bn in market cap plus another $4.1bn in debt), the balloon can be held underwater for so long.


The ‘saga’ I refer to, of course, is with CIT. CIT is the largest trade/receivable factoring company in the US, and is really what I’ll call a ‘lender of last resort’ in the retail space.


The recent timeline for this little lover’s quarrel looks like this…

  1. Jan 11, 1st cutoff. CIT refuses to fund Sears’ suppliers.
  2. Then on Jan 19th, CIT resumes sparingly under the guise of more financial disclosure by SHLD.
  3. Then today, Jan 31, after speculation that not enough financial info given, CIT reportedly cut off SHLD – again.


I should note that we cannot confirm the specifics of any of this, but simply want to provide context to our clients to the extent anything comes about.

In fact, I should note that CIT reported earnings this morning, and made no mention of Sears. Another point is that they are growing many areas of their business quite aggressively, so any decision here would be strategic, not one due to capital constraints.


All that said, SHLD isn’t reporting earnings for another 3-weeks. If CIT has to wait that long for the financial information it needs, SHLD will have a big big problem on its hands. After all, retailers make money by selling stuff. They only sell stuff when they can buy stuff. If the grease between the retailer and the supplier dries up, then it’s pretty difficult to get stuff into the stores. No stuff = no revenue.


The irony here is that the company comps down so consistently, that limited product flow into SHLD for a short time period can actually free up working capital.


Regardless of this situation, we can argue that Sears’ equity is worth zero. But as it relates to the industry, don’t get all excited about supply/demand coming into balance in the event of SHLD going under. The stores are still stores. Remember Circuit City? Yeah…some of those stores are now PC Richards, some are Best Buy, Dick’s, REI…you get the idea.  The point is that a brand going away is much different than floorspace going away.

HIBB: Setting Up As A Short

We think margin pressures will intensify in 2012, and estimates are too high. It's premium multiple is fine when it's printing 20-30% growth. Not 0-10%.



We think that HIBB, once one of the most attractive growth stories in retail, is setting up to be a good short. For those who don’t know Hibbett, it is one of the least known, but most successful, retailers in the Sporting Goods space. The company operates 825 stores throughout the South. It is unlike Dick’s Sporting Goods and Sports Authority in many ways, one of the most notable of which is the size of the store. DKS and TSA run at about 46,000 square feet, while HIBB is about 5,000.


But the biggest differentiating factor is its strategy, which is to find a shopping center where there is a Wal-Mart, and dirt cheap rent in the shopping center (because WMT puts the prior tenants out of business). Then HIBB comes in and sells Nikes, UnderArmour, and $250 baseball bats. In other words, it feeds off of Wal-Mart’s traffic much like a remora does a Great White.


The biggest concern we have with this story is that it is structurally different than it was in prior years, but the multiple does not know it yet – and we think it will in 2012.


Back in 2003-2005, this was the ultimate ‘cult stock’. UnderArmour was driving traffic into the market, Nike was playing catch-up and turning the product engine into overdrive. At the same time, HIBB had 12% square footage growth, with seemingly unlimited upside. 12% square footage growth + MSD comp growth on top of the lowest SG&A hurdle in Sporting Goods retail = 30-40%+ EPS growth.  Heck…it was worthy of being a cult stock.


Margins Topping Out

After a lackluster 2008-10 when HIBB missed square footage growth targets and consistently put up negative comps for the first time in a decade, FY11A and FY12E (Jan) are back to 30-40% EPS growth.  But the growth and margin characteristics are almost definitely topping out.

  1. First off… With square footage, we’re looking at the law of large numbers. Even if store growth accelerates to 40 stores NET of closures, assuming that the company can execute, then we’re still only looking at 4%-5% square footage growth. The recent management changes certainly won’t help execution.
  2. We have no reason to think that comps will decline, but we think the upside surprise and benefit from another Alabama football championship is already reflected in the stock. Recall that it was only two years ago when both the Tide and Saints won their respective titles it added 3.5pts to HIBB’s Q4 comp and then another 2pts in Q1. We expect the combination of an Alabama/LSA title game to add roughly 2pts to Q4.
  3. In December, both CEO Jeff Rosenthal and Chairman of the Board Micky Newsome sold stock.
  4. Then today we saw news of CFO Gary Smith leaving the company come across the wire. He’s leaving behind a perfectly capable team, but there’s something about a 12 year veteran walking away without a successor lined up that just doesn’t smell right.  Let’s respect the fact that Mr. Smith is only 64 years old, and has at least several years left in him. Having been passed over two years ago for the top job might have left a bad taste in his mouth. Regardless, he probably is not leaving ‘bc 2012 looks so dang good’.
  5. Gross margins are at peak (36%) and further expansion from current levels is getting incrementally tougher, particularly with Nike getting so aggressive with price increases, incremental competition coming down the pike in the Department Stores (thanks to the dominoes that are set to fall from Ron Johnson’s actions at JC Penney), and Foot Locker moving into the next phase of its turnaround adds competition in the mall. If FL does not pressure HIBB directly, Finish Line will.
  6. Of companies with exposure to the growing online threat that is AMZN, HIBB is among the most vulnerable due to the fact that it is the only retailer we know of that doesn’t have an ecommerce business.


With the stock now trading at over 20x and 11x our 2012 EPS and EBITDA estimates, respectively at the very high end of the range over the last four years, it appears to be pricing in a significant reacceleration in square footage growth, further gross margin expansion, or both. DKS trades at 17x; FL 13x; FINL 12x.


Slowing Growth, Slowing Turns = Dramatically Lower Multiple Support

We have earnings growth going from 30%+ over the last two years driven by 4 points of operating margin expansion to LSD over the each of the next two years as store related expenses increase in an effort to drive top-line growth. It might be tough to maintain its current multiple if growth expectations need to come down.


Check out our SIGMA and Management Scorecard for HIBB

SIGMA: HIBB has pulled a complete 180, and now has inventories building on the margin, which is very gross margin bearish. Ordinarily, when we see moves like this, the stock acts accordingly. HIBB has not – YET.


HIBB: Setting Up As A Short - sigma


Management Scorecard: This measures Asset Turnover (x axis) by tax-adj EBIT margins (y axis). Simply put, its easy for a stock to trade at 20x+ earnings when both turns and margins are headed up simultaneously.  But HIBB no longer has that on its side. Not only that, if our model is right, then we’ll see a reversal in this trend over the next two years, which – as noted above with EPS growth, has obvious implications for HIBB’s premium multiple.


HIBB: Setting Up As A Short - score

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Weekly Latin America Risk Monitor: The Bernank Tax

Conclusion: We await for more quantitative clarity on the price front as the outsized potential for another implementation of The Bernank Tax clouds Latin America’s GROWTH/INFLATION/POLICY outlook.



All % moves week-over-week unless otherwise specified.

    • Median: +1.1%
    • High: Peru +3.2%
    • Low: Argentina -3.8%
    • Callout: Latin American equity market are up +10.3% for the YTD on a median basis
  • FX (vs. USD):
    • Median: +0.2%
    • High: Brazilian real +0.7%
    • Low: Argentine peso flat
    • Callout: Latin American currencies are up +6.2% vs. the USD for the YTD on a median basis
    • High: Colombia flat
    • Low: Brazil -44bps
    • Callout: Brazil down -52bps YTD vs. Colombia only down -7bps
    • High: Colombia -3bps
    • Low: Brazil -19bps
    • Callout: Brazil down +8bps YTD vs. Mexico down -56bps
    • High: Brazil +25bps
    • Low: Mexico -10bps
    • Callout: Brazil +60bps wider YTD vs. Colombia -25bps tighter
  • 5YR CDS:
    • Median: -3.1%
    • High: Argentina -1.6%
    • Low: Peru -3.6%
    • Callout: Venezuela -17.7% tighter over the LTM vs. a regional widening of +18.2% on a median basis
    • Median: -0.5%
    • High: Colombia +3.9%/+20bps
    • Low: Brazil -3.3%/-32bps
    • Callout: Chile +4.2% wider YTD vs. Brazil -4.8% tighter
    • Median: -0.2%
    • High: Colombia +5.2%/+24bps
    • Low: Chile -0.8%/-4bps
    • Callout: Colombia +3.7% wider YTD vs. Brazil -5.2% tighter
  • CORRELATION RISK: The risk of heightening inflationary pressures is being incrementally priced into LatAm bond markets, with the MSCI EM Latin America Equity Index trading with a 23% inverse correlation to the price of Brent Crude Oil on a three-week basis. Extending the analysis across six additional [longer] durations, the correlations are all positive, which adds ethos to this data point as quantitative signal of a fundamental inflection point on Latin America’s growth/inflation outlook.

Full price and performance tables can be found at the conclusion of this note.



We’ve been vocal in calling out the risks to growth that are associated with the Fed’s renewed policy to inflate. We’ve rhetorically shifted our research focus alongside a demonstrable shift in our Asset Allocation and Virtual Portfolio to capture this immediate-term consternation. The key quantitative breakout/breakdown levels that will help us decide our next directional shift en masse are outlined in the charts below:


Weekly Latin America Risk Monitor: The Bernank Tax - 1


Weekly Latin America Risk Monitor: The Bernank Tax - 2



Growth Slowing’s Bottom:

  • Brazil: FGV Consumer Confidence ticked down in JAN to 116 vs. 119.6 prior. The country’s Unemployment Rate did make a new all-time low in DEC, at 4.7%. While seasonality exists in this metric on a month-to-month basis, the YoY decline in the rate actually accelerated: -60bps vs. -50bps prior.
  • Brazil: Industrial Production growth accelerated in DEC to -1.2% YoY vs. -2.7% prior. On a MoM basis, growth accelerated to +0.9% vs. +0.2% prior.
  • Argentina: Consumer Confidence ticked up in JAN to 57.4 vs. 52.6.
  • Chile: Industrial Production and Industrial Sales growth both slowed in DEC to +0.5% YoY (vs. +2% prior) and +0.4% YoY (vs. +4.5% prior), respectively. Retail Sales growth accelerated, however, to +10.1% YoY vs. +8.5% prior.

The Bernank Tax:

  • Brazil: The unofficial IGP-M CPI series slowed in JAN to +4.5% YoY vs. +5.1% prior; this positive data point should continue to drag the benchmark IPCA series down with it on a 2-4 month lag. As alluded to above, however, should the USD continue to break down quantitatively and Brent prices continue to break out, we think inflation on a global basis will start to reaccelerate heading into 2Q.
  • Colombia: In the wake of Bernanke priming the pump for QE3, Colombia’s central bank raised its benchmark interest rate +25bps to 5%, citing “increased inflation expectations”. This move is in-line with our outlook for Colombian 1H12 growth and inflation.


  • Brazil: Finance Minister Guido Mantega reiterated President Rouseff’s previous commentary in saying that Brazil will use fiscal policy to make room for more flexible monetary policy. Per the central bank’s latest minutes, “flexible” in this case is currently being defined as the Selic Rate being lowered into the high single digits, which is the level we saw in the thralls of 2009. The country is seeking a reacceleration to +4% Real GDP growth in 2012 via a combination of credit expansion of +15-17%, an increase in public investment, and consumer tax cuts/incentives. 
  • Brazil: To the point above, credit continues to come in hot amid gov’t incentives and lower interest rates (consumer lending rates: 43.8% on average in DEC down from 2011 peak of 47.1% in OCT): +19% YoY in DEC vs. +18.2% prior; +2.3% MoM vs. +1.9% prior. Looking ahead, we expect the Brazilian gov't to unveil policies designed to support Brazilian homeownership, with mortgages representing just shy of 10% of all domestic loans (vs. 31.2% for all other consumer credit).
  • Mexico: Incumbent president Filipe Calderon continues to audition for a role at the IMF following the culmination of his presidency by stating: “The G-20 should act together to help build a firewall that will prevent the spread of the financial crisis throughout Europe.” His view is in-line with Lagarde’s fear-mongering and is yet another sign of the Keynesian slant Mexican policymakers have adopted in recent years (haven’t hiked rates at all since the ‘08/’09 crisis).
  • Argentina: As inflation continues to trend well above official metrics, Argentines are responding in kind via “parking” their money in cars in search of dwindling opportunities for inflation protection. Automobile loans grew in 2011 at 10yr-high rate of +61% to a 10yr-high level of $3.8B. Car sales increased +30% YoY in 2011 following this expansion of capital. Not coincidentally, Standard & Poor’s, an agency that is not liable to the Argentine gov’t which fines private economists for publishing CPI rates north of official statistics, estimates Argentine CPI to come in at +29% YoY in 2012.
  • Argentina: President Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner’s regime continues to aggressively intervene in Argentine capital markets in pursuit of financial repression; the latest measures include the central bank’s decision to force dividend-paying banks to hold 75% more capital than the minimum requirement starting in FEB (up from 30%). The central bank pitched the change as a step towards compliance with Basel III, but the timing and punitive nature of the changes suggests otherwise to us – which is in line with the growing number of financial services professionals becoming increasingly disenchanted with the country due to the government’s [growing] heavy hand in markets. The latest measure should limit the amount of pesos being converted into dollars in order to be sent overseas to international investors and may serve to incrementally lower Argentine interest rates if banks do away w/ dividend payments altogether, as that would increase the aggregate supply of capital in the domestic economy. This is yet another measure that reduces Argentina’s need to devalue the peso and the country’s dollar debt is responding in kind: +10% YTD vs. -14% in 2011.
  • Argentina: YPF Sociedad Anonima shares have plunged this week and are now down -15% since the ADR put in an intermediate-term lower-high on JAN 23 on speculation that the government is discussing nationalization of the Argentinean oil giant. Fernandez’s administration has not been shy about pushing the country’s oil companies to increase domestic investment; nor have they been shy about blaming these corporations for a doubling of Argentina’s fuel imports to $9.4B in 2011. Our Energy team believes that such speculation is not warranted due to Argentina’s inability to finance YPF’s capital expenditures on their own; additionally the country stands to incrementally lose foreign investment amid a bevy of other interventionist measures.


Moshe Silver, our Chief Compliance Officer, is fluent in Portuguese and mines the local Brazilian press for hard-to-get data points for us each day. Below, we flag his top three callouts from the previous week:

  1. The Minha Casa, Minha Vida (“My House, My Life”) cash transfer program, whose focus is to build new housing for poor families, targets building 2 million additional dwelling units by 2014.  Finance minister Guido Mantega said aid to the construction sector is essential if the government’s target of 4% GDP growth is to be met this year.  Planning Minister Miriam Belchior said half of the 2 million units have already been completed and noted that the government is working on other aspects of the projects in an effort to speed completion and reduce costs.  This covers such areas as delays in installation of electricity, water, sewer lines, and documentation of families supposed to be covered by the program. 
  2. The central bank reports Brazilian tourists spent a record US$ 21.2 billion abroad in 2011, up 30% from 2010.  At the same time, foreign tourists in Brazil spent US$ 6.8 billion, an increase of 16.7%. Record spending levels notwithstanding, spending declined in the four months through November.  November showed a 5% decline month over month before spending picked up again in December, rising 2.2% MoM. 
  3. Brazilian mining and metals giant Vale won the “Oscar of Shame” award, an on-line poll conducted by Public Eye and sponsored by Greenpeace.  88,000 people voted worldwide to choose the world’s worst company.  The winner, with over 25,000 votes, was Vale, followed by Tepco, the operator of the Fukushima nuclear plant, Samsung and Barclays.  Vale was cited for its long history “characterized by inhuman working conditions, human rights violations, and destruction of the environment,” and was criticized for participating in the highly controversial Belo Monte hydroelectric dam.


Key economic data releases and policy announcements:

  • WED:
    • Brazil: JAN Manufacturing PMI, JAN Trade Data
    • Peru: JAN CPI
  • THURS:
    • Brazil: JAN FIPE CPI
  • FRI:
    • Brazil: DEC Capacity Utilization
    • Mexico: JAN Consumer Confidence; Central Bank Monetary Policy Minutes
    • Colombia: JAN PPI
    • Colombia: JAN CPI
  • MON:
    • Chile: DEC Economic Activity Index
  • TUES:
    • Mexico: JAN Manufacturing PMI; JAN Services PMI
    • Chile: JAN Trade Data

Darius Dale

Senior Analyst


Weekly Latin America Risk Monitor: The Bernank Tax - 3


Weekly Latin America Risk Monitor: The Bernank Tax - 4


Weekly Latin America Risk Monitor: The Bernank Tax - 5


Weekly Latin America Risk Monitor: The Bernank Tax - 6


Weekly Latin America Risk Monitor: The Bernank Tax - 7


Weekly Latin America Risk Monitor: The Bernank Tax - 8


Weekly Latin America Risk Monitor: The Bernank Tax - 9


In preparation for LVS's Q4 earnings release tomorrow, we’ve put together the recent pertinent forward looking company commentary.




  • Interim dividend of HK$0.58 per share payable to shareholders who own shares as of Feb 20.  The interim dividend will be paid on Feb 28.



  • Sands received confirmation from the Securities and Futures Commission of Hong Kong (SFC) that the investigation has been concluded and that no further action will be taken against the Company at this time.





  • As I mentioned in the opening, we have an aggressive plan for the Plaza moving forward, beginning with the addition of two new leading VIP operators opening there in the next couple of weeks.”
  • “It's about another seven months before it's fully implemented. It goes throughout the first quarter and second quarter. But the answer is, it's happening. We're very comfortable with our relationships. We're very comfortable with our deals. We're fully sold out on all or our five, six opportunities.”
  • “I've heard the word cannibalization over the last several years. But I have not seen a single instance of one property cannibalizing the other. Period. We were hoping to cannibalize, and I think we've cannibalized a lot of the properties on the Peninsula, with my idea about the Cotai Strip and Asia's Las Vegas.”
  • “We will be opening the first 1,800 rooms, which is a 1,200 room Holiday Inn and a 600 room Conrad by Hilton, at the end of the first quarter.  At the end of the third quarter, the first Sheraton tower of 2,000 rooms will also open in the end of the third quarter '12. And then at the first quarter of '13, as we've said before in previous calls, we'll open the last tower, the last 2,000 rooms at the Sheraton.”
  • “If you take out Cotai Central, our existing capital (maintenance) spend annually is going to be in the vicinity of about $400 million.”And then from a project standpoint, we're probably close to about $1.2 billion.”
  • “The bulk of that obviously is Sands Cotai Central, and then we've got some retainage payments obviously to make on Marina Bay Sands.”
  • “I think it's [margin] sustainable on our current business model in the casino, but hopefully it will go down significantly as we grow a lot more junket business, which as you know is much slimmer margins. But I think when you look at some of the numbers that Galaxy and Wynn, our competitors, have thrown off in that segment, I'd rather have more EBITDA and less margin because we've left behind some dollars there.”
  • “When you look at kind of what we recorded at reserves for the quarter, it's actually very consistent, both on a quarter-over-quarter basis, year-over-year, if you will, and also on a sequential basis. So, really not much change in that regard. And our percentages with regard to the reserves against the outstanding balances have stayed relatively flat, doing a great job collecting. And there's really been no need to kind of change what we have been doing.”


  • [Increase in VIP volumes] “It's a number of customers coming out of mainland China. It continues to be more important to Singapore, so does Hong Kong. There is some play out of Singapore itself, mostly PR play. Indonesia, Malaysia, Korea, Japan, all important. But clearly the strength of that rim business resides in mainland China, whether it be mainland Chinese themselves living in mainland, or having a second home in Singapore."
  • “Year-to-date our hold percentage is 2.82%.”
  • [Mass] “We are holding in the 22, 23 range, which speaks to the customers' willingness to gamble and sit at the table, and the drop's increasing considerably. The good news from our perspective is that's mostly a tourist customer. I would say the majority of our business comes out of a non-rated side, which is a wonderful customer, both into the margin and consistency. We're fortunate in having tens of thousands of hotel rooms in the neighborhood that feed that market. It's tourist driven.”
  • “Visitation is relatively flat, Shaun, between the second quarter and the third quarter into the casino. But visitation to the property continues to increase and will continue to increase, as you bring more folks into the area with the trains coming first quarter next year.”
  • “The [Marina Bay] MRT stop, which is Q1 '12; and the cruise terminal Q2 '12; the gardens, the base 2012; eventually be a Singapore sports hub – are unique opportunities to continue to grow this mass slot and table business.”
  • “On the slot machines, obviously we're capped by government regulation. We run at very high utilization, probably the highest I've ever seen. On weekends and holidays, we get into the 80s. In my mind that's pretty much, you can't get a whole lot higher. So, these machines the next year we do, let's say, $700 million. This is the highest numbers in the industry, so clearly we have high capacity and high usage.”


  • The property's new outlet stores will begin previews early next week ahead of a February grand opening. We expect traffic from the retail stores, the 300 room hotel which opened in May, and the forthcoming Event Center to provide a continued increase in our gaming revenue there.”

Japan’s Jugular 2.0: Will 2012 Be the Beginning of the End?

Conclusion: The perception of the Japanese sovereign debt market is at risk of a fundamental inflection point in 2012, as heavy issuance is likely to be accompanied by very public failures in passing much-needed fiscal reform. As such, we will seek to manage immediate-term risk within this long-term bearish thesis by trading Japanese equities and the Japanese yen with a bearish bias.


Current Virtual Portfolio Positioning: Short Japanese equities (EWJ).




“I skate to where the puck is going to be, not where it has been.”
-Wayne Gretzky


For long-time Hedgeye clients, our long-term bearish outlook for Japanese economic growth is not new news; neither is our aggressive stance against their ultra-Keynesian monetary policy and fiscal positioning. That said, however, 2012 shapes up to be a rather interesting year for Japan’s sovereign debt market, as both a heavy auction calendar coincides with debates on key fiscal reforms – both of which possess the potential of dramatically surprising consensus expectations to the downside.


Given our own deep understanding of the tailwinds supporting the Japanese yen and the Japanese government bond market, it would be reckless to assign a timeline to a potential Japanese sovereign debt and/or banking crisis. We have, however, done the work and are comfortable in saying that, more so than any year prior, 2012 shapes up to be the year where confidence in the JGB market is lost – putting Japan at risk of being next in line to face the music of our Sovereign Debt Dichotomy theme.


As the aforementioned quote by hockey great Wayne Gretzky suggests, we think it’s appropriate for investors to begin hedging their portfolios against Japanese sovereign credit risk. As always, feel free to email us at if you have any follow-up questions and would like to dialogue further.


Darius Dale

Senior Analyst

Hedgeye Statistics

The total percentage of successful long and short trading signals since the inception of Real-Time Alerts in August of 2008.

  • LONG SIGNALS 80.46%
  • SHORT SIGNALS 78.35%