Israel and Iran . . . Now What?

Conclusion: While recent comments by Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu suggest an attack on Iran’s nuclear facilities by Israel could occur in 2012, it is not clear if he would have the broad support of the Israeli people.  Further, there are potentially a number of unintended consequences. As we highlight in the chart below, oil continues to trade with a premium due to the heightened rhetoric in the Middle East.


Israel and Iran . . . Now What? - Brent.03.19



Positions: Long Oil via the etf OIL

We are planning on doing a conference call in the coming weeks with a foreign policy expert on Israeli and Iranian relations, but in the meantime we wanted to provide some context on the next potential catalyst in this standoff.  Rather than introduce our own speculation, we’ve compiled specific public comments related to potential timing of an attack by Israel, the route or plan that the Israelis would likely follow, and some secondary consequences.


Potential Timing of Attack

As for the timing of the attack, Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu told Israeli TV after his trip to Washington that, “it's not a matter of days or weeks but also not of years” before Israel would resort to military action in response to the potential nuclear threat from Iran. (UPI)


YNet News, Israel’s most read newspaper, reported that Israel will attack Iran no sooner than November of this year (after the presidential election).  This came out through a White House official after the meeting between President Obama and Prime Minister Netanyahu in early March. (Ynet)


Dr. Emanuele Ottolenghi, a senior fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies in Washington added, “I think the Israelis will take that action only if they feel that their back is completely against the wall, that Iran is about to cross the finish line on its road to a nuclear weapon, and no-one else is willing to do it.” (ABC)


Potential Attack Plan


The following information came from an interview with Dr.Ottolenghi. He said that the most likely route of entry would be either a northern route (through Turkey and Iraq or Syria and Iraq) or a southern route (along the Iraqi/ Saudi Arabian border).  The southern route is much longer thus he said it would be less likely because the attack would test the outer limits of the Israeli Air Force, and might result in in-flight refueling. (ABC)


Dr. Ottolenghi further suggested that all of the countries involved in the attack passage (potentially Turkey, Syria, Iraq, and Saudi Arabia) would possibly face resistance from Iran if they opened their air space to an Israeli air strike. (ABC)


As far as the type of attack that Israel would exercise, Dr. Ottolenghi hinted that if the attack were to occur it would come from air attacks and missiles and not from a pre-emptive nuclear strike as such actions are unprecedented. (ABC)


Consequences for Attack

Debating the consequences of an Israeli attack we think it will be useful to look at the event of a failed destruction of the Iranian nuclear facilities.  The former head of the Mossad, Meir Dagan, said during a recent interview on 60 Minutes that no attack could stop the Iranian nuclear effort, but rather only delay it. (CBS)


The entirety of his interview can be found below:;contentBody


Dr. Ottolenghi’s view is that the primary issue with a failed attack is the fact that Iran would still have their nuclear facilities in tact and would then have a reason to back out of the Non-Proliferation Treaty.  He said this would be the WORST case scenario, but he presented other more likely alternatives.


1.    Hezbollah attack on the northern border from Lebanon

Mark Fitzpatrick, director of the Non-Proliferation and Disarmament Programme at the London-based International Institute for Strategic Studies (IISS) says, “the Shia Islamist group Hezbollah, has more than 10,000 rocket launchers in southern Lebanon, many of them supplied by Iran.”  He went on to state that the arsenal of missiles stockpiled in Lebanon have the range capability to hit all of Israel.


2.    Hamas attack from the Gaza Strip

Fitzpatrick added that the Hamas also had the capability to launch their own missile based attack from the Gaza Strip, which could be devastating for Israel as this combination amounts to a military strike from both the northern and southern borders simultaneously. (BBC)  This strategic cooperation also poses the risk of the violence expanding into a bigger war in the Middle East. (CBS)

3.    Closing the Strait of Hormuz

BBC News reports that if the Strait of Hormuz was blocked that could result in “extended naval conflict between the US and Iran, and in the short term, there could be a significant impact upon oil prices.” (BBC)  It is reported that 17 million barrels of oil are transported through the Strait of Hormuz each day which amounts to 20% of global supply. (ECON)  The Economist went on to say, “Even a temporary closure would imply a disruption to dwarf any previous oil shock”.


4.     Attack against oil installations along the Arabian shore of the Gulf

Karim Sadjadpour, an Iran expert at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, said “If Iran tries to destabilize world energy supplies - whether launching missiles into Saudi Arabia's oil-rich eastern province or attempting to close the Strait of Hormuz - the U.S. isn't going to stand aside idly.” (BBC)

5.    Iranian attack of American targets

If Iran were to retaliate with option 3, 4, or 5 Dr. Ottolenghi said this would draw the U.S. into the conflict.  Dr. Ottolenghi made the repercussions of U.S. involvement clear when he said, “it could spell the end of the regime if the Americans were drawn into this conflict.” (ABC) 


6.     Regional war

Dagan said that he thought the result of an Israeli attack would, “ignite regional war”.  Dagan also said that he thinks the U.S. should step in and intervene instead of the Israelis.  (CBS)


While one would think, at least based on some government rhetoric, the decision to launch an attack could rally the people of Israel around the government, a recent study published by Tel Aviv University and the Israeli Democracy Institute suggests otherwise.  They reported that only 31% of Israelis support a unilateral strike against Iran by Israel while 63% are opposed.  Ultimately, the sentiment could be a key factor in any decision Netanyahu and his cabinet make.


Of course, there is also a view that that Netanyahu is bluffing and that if he really believed that the Iranian threat was comparable to another Holocaust, he would have already taken action.  As Jeffrey Goldberg aptly wrote for Bloomberg yesterday:


“But, if true, Netanyahu is proving himself to be an adept poker player. Obama told me in an interview that, “as president of the U.S., I don’t bluff."  Whether Netanyahu bluffs is perhaps the more important question.”





Daryl G. Jones


Director of Research


Israel and Iran . . . Now What? - ME2


SP500 Levels, Refreshed: Parts Unknown

Keith and I are taking the Hedgeye show on the road this week.  We started the day in beautiful Winnipeg, Manitoba, are now in Minneapolis, and head to Boston tomorrow.  And no doubt, we’ll have a few stops in between.  For those of you that happen to find yourselves in beautiful Minneapolis, we’ll be hosting a Hedgeye Happy Hour at Brit’s Pub at 1110 Nicollet Mall.


Not unlike some of our travels, roaming between major cities over the course of the last few days, the SP500 now finds itself levitating to Parts Unknown. Currently at 1,411, the SP500 is bumping up to our TRADE resistance line at 1,413.  The updated levels – 1,413 sell TRADE, 1,379 buy TRADE, and 1,291 buy TREND – are outlined in the chart below.


The question from here is not what to do about what’s happened in the year-to-date (yes, it has been a good year for equities), but really to consider what will happen next.  A couple questions we would recommend considering before chasing equities into Parts Unknown:


1.   The VIX is now at levels not seen since last summer, so what kind of complacency is baked into the stock market?

2.   Growth is not accelerating.  In fact, today we received a sign from the corporate sector that corporate decision makers may be more cautious on growth, with Apple deciding to pay a dividend.  As always with management teams, watch what they do.  Are equities priced for sequentially decelerating economic growth?


3.   We are on the road this week briefing some of our key subscribers on Japan and accelerating sovereign risks there.  Not to say a debt crisis is imminent, but it is a probability that is moving from the tail to the normal distribution.  Are equities pricing in the potential of another debt crisis?


Ultimately as Michael Bloomberg, and I’m sure many others before him, said, “People are worried about the unknown.”


The question remains: are investors worried enough?




Daryl G. Jones


Director of Research


SP500 Levels, Refreshed: Parts Unknown - SPX



NIKE: The 3-Peat

The sentiment, calendar, and consensus nature of the average Buy rating does not lead us to be particularly bullish into the print. But at some point over the next 2-quarters, there’s likely to be some form of exodus of people who rented the stock that will allow those with a long duration to capitalize on the REAL call, which is that 2013 and 2014 will be a 3-peat.


The Punchline here is that if you were to ask the average analyst what they think about Nike today, they’ll say ‘Buy it because A) the order book is both solid and strengthening, B) while revenue builds, NKE starts to anniversary cost pressures from a year ago, and C) the impacts of price increases start to take effect. In addition, there’s the sentiment associated with an extremely robust event calendar with 1) UEFA European Football Championship (note to Americans – Europeans think that this is like the World Cup excluding Brazil), 2) The Olympics in London, and 3) Nike taking over the NFL license as the new season kicks off in the summer.


All this makes for a great momentum story. That’s why the stock is up 22.7% year to date – more than 3x the S&P.


So now what?


Will the company have a great quarter? Yes. They will. We think that they’ll beat the $1.16 consensus by at least a dime. Then it’s off to the races as it relates to event flow.

But mark my words, there will be some event by August that will prompt momentum money to peel off this trade – even if that event is time itself. Most momentum investors probably know that, and will therefore look to do it sooner rather than later.  We’ll never fault anyone for booking a gain. So hats off to them. 


But at the same time, this creates an opportunity for people that have wanted to invest in the company but have seen the stock zip past them faster than LeBron James on a breakaway dunk.


Our point is that the company has invested so heavily in its consumer alignment, product innovation, and sales distribution organizations over the past three years, which we think has resulted in competitive positioning that is worlds ahead of any traditional competitors. This means that while momentum traders will be concerned that ‘comps will be tough and growth will roll’ next year, the reality is that Nike is going to repeat CY2012 again, and then again.


This was best evidenced at Nike’s recent innovation summit in NYC, which we had the pleasure of attending. The degree to which Nike has elevated the playing field is simply jaw-dropping. To be clear, we’re not talking about simply making updates to existing product platforms, or aligning apparel better with footwear. Those things are nice, but the updates don’t drive sales, they maintain them. Better product alignment is a productivity booster, and good for a couple of growth points in sales. But is not revolutionary.  Nike simply does not borrow R&D and marketing dollars from one side of the organization and give it to another. That’s called ‘pissing off your employees and not growing revenue.’


Nike, rather, has invested in new platforms like FlyNet. We can’t do it much justice here, but the picture below shows a glimpse of the new line – which will hit stores in July. It is a combination of ‘lean and green manufacturing’ with new materials and an extremely commercial new design to make one of the lightest running shoes ever made. (Note: for those of us who are more sedentary, the average runner has around 14,000 heelstrikes per hour. You think that a few ounces per shoe does not matter? Do the math…).  This can be as big or bigger than NikeFree (which will still grow when FlyNet launches).


NIKE: The 3-Peat  - NKE flynet

Source: Nike Innovation Summit


Another game-changer – pardon the pun – is the Nike+ Fuelband.  Most people know about Nike+, and how the chip in Nike shoes can synch up with your iPod to collect training data and share electronically with friends and coaches. We also all know that about a week after that came out, running shops were selling little pouches for $3 that allowed you to put the chip on any other brand of shoe you wanted. 

But the evolution of this technology is astounding.

One major change is that while there is still a chip, it feeds off several weightless electronic sensors built into the sole of the shoe. No Nike shoe, no Nike+.

More importantly, they rolled this out to basketball and training, and made it far more digitally integrated. Simply put, they’ve taken the concept of ‘going digital’ beyond any consumer brand aside from Apple. Now you can download a workout schedule for dozens of different athletes across many sports, and literally train with and compete against them (and your friends). The technology tracks vertical lift, speed, cadence, lateral movement, acceleration, and even ‘lazy time’ (time you spend sitting idle during a game).

And yes, the technology is attached to shoes ranging from $90 to $160.


As it relates to how the 3-Peat theme plays out in our model, we get to EPS estimates that are nearly a buck higher than consensus for each of the next two years.

That’s about 20% annual EPS growth for the top player in a global growth space with extremely difficult barriers to entry, and a structural advantage from a sourcing/selling perspective as China gains share of the world economy. It has a consistent track record for executing operationally, making the right human and financial capital deployment decisions, and overdelivering on expectations. Tack on $8 per share in net cash, and enough annual free cash flow to comfortably buy back 5% of its current market cap per year, and this is a pretty good place to be.

Does it look expensive on the consensus numbers (19.5x forward estimates?). Yes.

But on our numbers, we’re looking at a multiple closer to 16x earnings and 10x EBITDA. We’re cool with that.



This is where TRADE considerations matter.

As noted the consensus is for a bullish momentum trade.

The ‘buy ratio’ is right in line with where it’s been for 2-years – but the actual upside to sell side price targets is only 2%. That’s the lowest it’s been in at least 3-years. 


NIKE: The 3-Peat  - NKE buy ratio

Source: Bloomberg 


Also, the ‘short interest ratio’ numbers reported by most data providers are a bit misleading. It suggests a ratio near three-year peaks. But the reality is that we’re only looking at 0.9% of the float short the stock – that’s at a trough. The short interest ratio is high simply because volume is at its historical trough. Volume = conviction. The buying audience here is feeling thin to us. 


NIKE: The 3-Peat  - NKE short interest

Source: Bloomberg 


One last factor to consider about Nike is how and when it sets expectations. We’re sitting here today at the exact time of year when Nike is preparing its budget for FY13. The company has its own unique biorhythm where any negativity that could come out tends to happen around this time of year. A large part of compensation for General Managers is delivering on expectations – or should we say OVERdelivering on expectations. This is when teams at Nike are probably submitting more conservative plans than they really think that they can achieve. That’s pretty apparent in looking at the company’s guidance history.


While Nike does not ‘guide’ officially, it gives enough pieces of the puzzle for analysts to do their job. What happens more often than not is that Nike takes down estimates – thinking that they’re being realistic – but they end up coming in ahead of where estimates were in the first place before they lowered guidance. Sounds confusing, but hopefully the chart below illustrates it. 


NIKE: The 3-Peat  - NKE expectations vs reality

Source: Factset


The Punchline is that the sentiment, and time of year does not lead us to be particularly bullish into the print. But at some point over the next 2-quarters, there’s likely to be some form of exodus of people who rented the stock that will allow those with a long duration to capitalize on the REAL call, which is that 2013 and 2014 will be a 3-peat.


NIKE: The 3-Peat  - Nke SIGMA


Brian P. McGough
Managing Director




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We understand why Dunkin’ Brands is selling its stock, but why are they selling into such a promising growth story?  Announcing the decision late on a Friday was also curious.  Along with the announcements of Outback Steakhouse potentially going public again, it is clear that Bain Capital is looking to reduce its exposure to the restaurant sector while the going is good.  If Dunkin’ is the best growth story in town, why are they selling?


DNKN’s stock has been trading well recently, along with the market, in the run up to the dividend announcement and the continuation of bullish underlying fundamentals in the restaurant industry.  Our view on the longer-term TAIL still stands.  Opportunities for the company to grow west of the Mississippi are far less abundant than the bulls believe.


The evidence for our view is as follows: announced new unit openings are lagging actual openings, which is leading to a decline in the backlog of potential new units being opened.  Until we are proven wrong by greater disclosure from Dunkin’, we will continue to be bearish on the company’s growth prospects per the announcements of new contracted openings by the company.


Compounding this uncertainty is the aggressive strategy being pursued by MCD and, less concerning for DNKN, WEN in the North East breakfast day part.  McDonald’s is a tough competitor and its new breakfast initiative in the North East, including cheese Danishes, muffins, and banana bread, is a signal of intent to take share from Dunkin’ Donuts in its most important region.


Much of the optimism around the growth story recently was brought about by the recently signed procurement and distribution agreement with a Dunkin’ Donuts franchisee-owned cooperative.  Having spoke with our contacts in the Dunkin’ Donuts franchisee community, we believe that the hype may not be matched by reality as time passes. 


The contract should benefit the system overall, but we are waiting for action; year-to-date, only nine contracted new restaurant openings have been announced.  The rollout of the supply chain benefits will happen over a three year period.  From our conversations with franchisees it also seems that DNKN will not receive supply chain rebates or incentives going forward; rather, those rebates will now go to the franchisee-owned co-op.   The franchise savings from the new arrangement will be greatest for franchisees in new markets.  “All regions will benefit” but clearly the 200-300 basis points of projected savings for the biggest beneficiaries is not representative of the total system.


On an annual basis, DNKN EBITDA currently benefits from approximately $8-12M in rebates from suppliers.   In order to compensate for that going away over the next three years, it is imperative that growth in new franchisee units accelerates sufficiently in order to compensate for that decline.


Most of the research notes that we see on Dunkin’ tend to focus heavily on same-store sales as a key metric for the health of the company.  We would agree that comparable restaurant sales growth is an important metric but it is not the most important metric for driving incremental value for shareholders.  Since Dunkin’ is a franchised business, its EPS growth is far more leveraged to new unit openings than to comparable restaurant sales.  Call us skeptics but we are not encouraged by the company’s lack of disclosure on this issue.  Unless we see a dramatic ramp up in announcements of contracted new unit openings, we will retain our current stance.


Recent same-store sales trends remain consistent versus last quarter (with a slight benefit from favorable weather trends).  We continue to hear that the majority of the improvement in same-store sales is coming from average check and not traffic although the company is also less-than-forthcoming with details on this topic.  The question remains whether check is up due to success of K-Cup sales, increased food mix, or pricing.  Items like the steak and egg breakfast sandwich and other new lunch items released in 2011 are helping check but we believe that traffic growth is minimal to slightly negative. 







Howard Penney

Managing Director


Rory Green






Their goal is lofty but when will investors start to buy it?



Investors have heard the pitch before.  IGT will double its 15% international share to 30%.  The international market is bigger than North America and growing twice as fast or high single digits.  The question is will and when will investors believe it.


The upside is compelling.  We calculate $0.30-0.45 (33-50% above TTM EPS) of additional EPS if IGT is successful.  We remain skeptical of such a big leap in market share and acknowledge it will take time even if it does happen.  That doesn’t mean we’re not bullish, however.  We do believe IGT will continue to grow its international share off the 15% base.  Even a move up to 20% share in a fast growing and large market would provide excellent growth.


Ultimately, IGT must show near-term improvement to provide investors with the visibility they need to begin to put pencil to paper.  Whether it’s 20%, 25%, or 30% share, all scenarios provide meaningful growth.  IGT, show us the money!  That could happen as soon as FQ2 (March) where we are projecting 6% YoY growth in international product revenues and 9% QoQ.  There could be upside to our numbers.


The good news for investors is that there seems to be a lot of long-term leverage in the international business.  The sales and product cost infrastructure to attain management’s goal has been laid.  That is, a lot of the increase in fixed costs is already hitting the P&L.  Now, IGT needs to deliver the top line.

European Banking Monitor

Below are key European banking risk monitors, which are included as part of Josh Steiner and the Financial team's "Monday Morning Risk Monitor".  If you'd like to receive the work of the Financials team or request a trial please email .


Key Takeaways:

* There was little movement again this week in several key indicators. Euribor-OIS continued to trend downwards, falling 4 bps over last week. Over the same period, the TED spread remained flat. Both of these series have largely renormalized.


Euribor-OIS spread – The Euribor-OIS spread (the difference between the euro interbank lending rate and overnight indexed swaps) measures bank counterparty risk in the Eurozone. The OIS is analogous to the effective Fed Funds rate in the United States.  Banks lending at the OIS do not swap principal, so counterparty risk in the OIS is minimal.  By contrast, the Euribor rate is the rate offered for unsecured interbank lending.  Thus, the spread between the two isolates counterparty risk. The Euribor-OIS spread tightened by 4 bps to 49 bps.


 European Banking Monitor - aa. euribor


ECB Liquidity Recourse to the Deposit Facility – The ECB Liquidity Recourse to the Deposit Facility measures banks’ overnight deposits with the ECB.  Taken in conjunction with excess reserves, the ECB deposit facility measures excess liquidity in the Euro banking system.  An increase in this metric shows that banks are borrowing from the ECB.  In other words, the deposit facility measures one element of the ECB response to the crisis.  Banks deposited €758.8 billion in the latest reading.


European Banking Monitor - aa. ecb facility


European Financials CDS Monitor – Bank swaps were tighter in Europe last week for 36 of the 40 reference entities. The average tightening was 3.9% and the median tightening was 5.9%.


European Banking Monitor - aa. banks


Security Market Program – The ECB's secondary sovereign bond purchasing program purchased no sovereign paper in the week ended 3/16 versus €27 Million in the week ended 3/9. February-to-date the Bank has purchased a mere €210 Million versus €2.2 BILLION in the week ended 1/20 and €3.8 BILLION in the week 1/12. When questioned on the lack of buying over recent weeks, ECB President Draghi has only answered that the SMP is a non-standard measure that is “neither eternal nor infinite.” Clearly, with the some €1 Trillion injection of liquidity across the LTROs, the Bank is paring back buying and watching the results of sovereign bond auctions.


European Banking Monitor - aa. SMP


Matthew Hedrick

Senior Analyst

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