After Heinz, What's Next?

Both Berkshire Hathaway and 3G prefer to invest in iconic, global brands, and Heinz certainly is that.  3G also has a reputation for aggresive cost cutting, and there appears to be room for that at Heinz as well.


In order to answer the oft-posed (last week, at least) question of "what's next", we took a look at the companies in the packaged food space in terms of how efficiently capital (human and fixed) was utilized.  As it turns out, the answer at HNZ was "not particularly well".  The companies positioned in the lower left corner of the chart below are at the lower end of the packaged food space on the following two metrics:


  1. Sales per employee
  2. Sales/Average Property Plant and Equipment (PPE)

After Heinz, What's Next? - Fixed Asset Productivity


Based on that analysis (admittedly, imperfect), CPB as a short might cause me some sleepness nights given that someone may see an opportunity there beyond what current management has been able to exploit.  I think the analysis also supports our belief that HSH and POST could be targets at some point in the future.


We next wanted to look for brands that might not be as well supported as could be, with an asssociated low sales productivity as measured by sales per employee - again, imperfect, but directionally helpful.


After Heinz, What's Next? - Advertising and promotion as a   of sales


Again, Heinz appears in the "bad" quadrant, and HSH right next to it - though this is weakness recognized by HSH management, with a plan to improve upon the current level of brand investment.  In this case, POST brands appear well-supported.


HAIN's position on the chart surprised us at first, then we thought about it and remembered that management there prefers to buy someone else's hard work and grow through acquisitions rather than do the heavy lifting required to build brands.


Where does that leave us?


Well, looking at the data here, we can see the opportunity that Berkshire Hathaway and 3G may be poised to exploit.  Further, we continue to believe that HSH and POST could be targets at some point in the future.  Finally, given it's proximity to HNZ on the metrics we discussed, a short position in CPB makes us somewhat uneasy.


Enjoy the holiday tomorrow,




Robert  Campagnino

Managing Director





Matt Hedrick

Senior Analyst


The Economic Data calendar for the week of the 18th of February through the 22nd is full of critical releases and events. Attached below is a snapshot of some (though far from all) of the headline numbers that we will be focused on.




Today we covered our short position in the Energy Select SPDR ETF (XLE) at $78.42 a share at 1:06 PM EDT in our Real-Time Alerts. With crude oil down today and our signals flashing, we're booking the alpha. Worst S&P sector move on the day by a lot: -1.2%.



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MNST - Friday Rumor Mill Grinds Some Shorts

It simply doesn't get any more spivvy than Friday rumors before a long weekend and into a short week where many investors will be on winter break with their children.  With MNST scheduled to report earnings a week from today (2/22) and a wall of worry for investors to climb regarding slowing top line and pricing in the U.S., today's speculation of a takeout just reeks of someone saying "get me out!" before the print.


While the timing of such speculation makes us "highly suspect" (I watched "Ratatouille" with my daughter last night), the notion isn't all that absurd (we have mentioned it from time to time).  Beverage companies struggle to find growth in today's environment, and MNST is working toward becoming a global growth story.  The size of the deal would be more than manageable for any of the multinationals in our coverage.


Having said that, we don't put much faith in this particular rumor given its timing (we have seen this movie more than once, just like "Ratatouille").  People don't want to be short going into a long weekend and the recent HNZ news has likely only made people more jittery regarding potential M&A activity.  We are also seeing call buying across multiple strikes as people position themselves for a possible deal or (more likely), buy some protection for their short position.


We think we are going to get a shot at this name lower, and so we are simply going to watch the headlines this weekend.


Have a good long weekend,



Robert  Campagnino

Managing Director





Goodbye Gold

 Over the last week, the US dollar has strengthened significantly, taking down the price of gold with it. In the last three months alone, gold has fallen from $1750/oz to just above $1600/oz today. Strong Dollar = Strong America. Gold and bonds are feeling the heat from #GrowthStabilizing.


Goodbye Gold - GLDUSD


In preparation for MAR's 4Q earnings release Tuesday, we’ve put together the recent pertinent forward looking company commentary.




  • "Planners are increasingly concerned about tight availability and are consequently booking meetings earlier."
  • "For the full year 2012, we expect to add roughly 28,000 rooms, including the 8,100 rooms from Gaylord."
  • "We expect REVPAR to remain strong in North America even as we shift from a leisure-heavy quarter to one more driven by business travel. Our fourth quarter guidance reflects 5% to 7% growth in system-wide REVPAR in North America. While our group booking pace is up nearly 9%, the fourth quarter includes a U.S. Presidential Election Week and a midweek Halloween, both of which will likely temper last-minute business-related demand in the quarter."
  • "We also expect fourth quarter G&A to decline, with less noise compared to last year."
  • "Our run rate for interest expense should increase modestly in the fourth quarter. At the beginning of the quarter, we issued $350 million of 10-year bonds with a 3.25% coupon. We had not expected to issue bonds until 2014, but we were attracted by the low yields in today's market. Given where short-term interest rates are today, this should increase our interest expense by about $4 million in the fourth quarter."
  • "We expect to return roughly $1.1 billion in share repurchases and dividends in 2012."
  • "Better understood as the continued government pressure to cut cost by focusing on travel, the GSA recently announced flat government per diems for 2013. Fortunately, at many full-service hotels in the United States, business is strong enough that we will probably replace this government business with other customers paying higher rates. In Washington, we expect occupancy rates to increase in 2013 as the politicians and lobbyists get back to the city."
  • "We estimate that the inauguration alone should increase annual REVPAR growth in the Downtown D.C. market by 150 to 200 basis points. With this strong Downtown performance, we expect REVPAR for Greater D.C. to grow at a mid single-digit rate in 2013. You may recall that roughly 5% of our North American room distribution is in the D.C. area."
  • "Nationwide, annual GDP in 2012 is growing at a pace slightly north of 2%. Assuming that pace continues into 2013, our system-wide North American hotels would likely remain in the 5% to 7% REVPAR growth range that we expect for the fourth quarter of this year. PwC, Smith Travel, and Lodging Econometrics are all forecasting less than 1% supply growth in 2013. This, combined with nearly peak occupancy levels, positions us to drive room rates higher."
  • "Our group booking pace for the North American company-operated Marriott brand for 2013 is up over 7%, with nearly 4% improvement in room rates over a strong 2012. Meeting planners and transient guests are booking earlier, and some customers are requesting multiple-year contracts. Given this climate, we are targeting corporate negotiated rates to increase at a high single-digit rate in 2013. In short, we expect North America to be steady as she goes. North America represents about 75% of our annual fee revenue."
  • "In Europe, the big 2013 story will likely continue to be the economy as many countries struggle with sovereign debt burdens, austerity programs, and modest economic growth. We will also face tough comparisons to many 2012 special events including the Olympics, the Euro Cup Championship, and a record-breaking 2012 fair schedule in Germany. Given all this, we are expecting flattish constant dollar REVPAR performance in our European hotels in 2013."
  • "In Asia, in addition to more moderate GDP growth, 2013 REVPAR should reflect significant supply growth in a few markets and slower inbound traffic from Europe. However, as in Europe, we have a meaningful concentration of hotels in better-performing gateway markets.  Overall, netting the pluses and the minuses, we expect REVPAR in the Asia Pacific region will increase at a mid to high single-digit rate on a constant dollar basis in 2013."
  • "In 2013, the Caribbean and Latin American market should benefit from economic growth throughout the region, stronger leisure business in the Caribbean, and a newly renovated hotel for us in São Paulo. Here, we are targeting constant dollar REVPAR growth in the region will increase at a mid single-digit rate."
  • "In the Middle East, we've already seen a pickup in demand at our Red Sea resorts, although absolute occupancy rates are likely to remain low in 2013. Dubai by contrast should remain strong, and infrastructure development should help business in Saudi Arabia. While quite difficult to forecast, we are assuming constant dollar REVPAR growth at a mid single-digit rate in 2013."
  • "Given the cost inflation since 2007, we expect hotel industry operating margins won't be back to 2007 levels until 2014 or 2015. And, once the economics support new construction, it could take anywhere from 24 to 60 months to develop a new hotel. So, it will be some time before we see many new full-service hotel openings. At the same time, transactions for existing hotels are increasing."
  • "Today, CMBS new issue market is quite robust, with low interest rates available for existing properties with solid cash flow. We haven't seen a lot of foreclosures. Recapitalizations are more the rule."
  • "In contrast to full-service development, new construction of our limited-service brands in the U.S. is picking up....we don't see meaningful near-term risk of overbuilding in most markets."
  • "Transient will bounce back faster and the group will still be held back a little bit by the length of the booking window and by the fact that the rates on the group business reflect rates that are put on the books at weaker times in the cycle. The longer we get into a recovery cycle, the more that
    factor ought to dissipate."
  • "When you look at fourth quarter, I suspect we'll see incentive fee growth at lower rates than we've experienced in Q3, and that's fundamentally can be driven by that 3%-ish REVPAR expectation for international hotels in Q4."
  • "We are seeing a modest increase in expected demand from our special corporate customers."We do have an internal goal... high single-digits rate increase. I think that is driven though both by pricing growth in like-for-like accounts and I suspect some of the lower-rated special corporate accounts we will essentially not play with or we will play with fewer hotels with those accounts. And that will give us a little bit more risk with rack-rate business, which is not special corporate and not last room."
  • "We typically run a 3% to 4% G&A increase on a run rate basis year in and year out and we try to be disciplined and manage to that." 
  • "I wouldn't be surprised to see us end the year at a point or two, maybe two or 3 points more of our group business on the books as of the first of the year than we would have had a year before. But, it won't be a dramatic shift from the year earlier."
  • "The obvious point is the supply growth in New York is... as high as any big urban market we have in the United States, has been the last couple of years, is likely to continue to post supply growth numbers in 2013 and 2014, which are at or near the top of the big markets in the United States."
  • "1.5% of the system is the right kind of deletion number for the foreseeable future."


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