Growth Accelerating: More Jobs

Housing is just one piece of the macroeconomic puzzle in the United States. The labor market is the other key driver of economic improvement and lately, things are looking up. This week's initial jobless claims numbers show improvement on both a seasonally adjusted and non-seasonally adjusted (NSA) basis. 


Growth Accelerating: More Jobs - JOBLESSCLAIMS1


We consider the 4-week rolling average in non-seasonally adjusted claims to be the more accurate representation of the underlying labor market trend and on that metric, the trend improved 2.5% week-over-week as the year-over-year change in 4-week rolling claims went from -6.3% year-over-year from -3.8% year-over-year the week prior. The headline number fell 13,000 to 339,000 week-over-week versus the prior week’s unrevised number while the 4-week rolling average in seasonally adjusted claims dropped 4,500 week-over-week to 358K. Remember: when the numbers fall, that's a positive for the economy because it shows a drop in the number of people who are jobless and filing claims.


Growth Accelerating: More Jobs - JOBLESSCLAIMS2


Starbucks is the best-run company that we follow and the long-term TAIL seems unlimited. The company’s geographical reach and size is highly impressive. Even more impressive is the performance of the Americas business, given its size and maturity.


We maintain a positive view of Starbucks as an effective way to play improving US consumption.  While sell-side analysts this morning are correct that the global macro outlook is challenging, it is important to know where SBUX has its exposure.  The U.S. is what will drive beats and misses in the near term, despite much unit growth being focused in China/Asia-Pacific. ~88% of company stores and ~85% of licensed stores within the "Americas" division are located in the United States.


SBUX STILL TOP DOG - yum mcd sbux opinc



The Good


Last night, Starbucks reported global same-store sales growth of 6% (13th consecutive quarter above 5%).  Same-stores sales in the Americas division grew 6% (including 5% traffic). Total revenue growth of 11% produced a 180 bps increase in operating margin and a 20% increase in EPS. 



  • Revenues + 10% yy
  • SRS two-yr comp sequentially declined 100 bps
  • Operating Income +22%
  • Operating Margin +220 bps to 21.1% (highest 2Q ever)

SBUX STILL TOP DOG - sbux americas pod1




  • Revenues unch’d, operating margin unch’d
  • -2% 2QFY13 comps implies 2-yr  comps negative
  • Emphasis is on improving profitability by refranchising (“sold to you!”)
  • Applying Americas “learnings” not trumping macro

SBUX STILL TOP DOG - sbux emea pod1




  • Revenues grew 22%
  • Comps at +8% came in light vs consensus
  • Operating margin down -710 bps on investment spending on China growth

SBUX STILL TOP DOG - sbux cap pod1



The Less-Good: Expectations, Food


The only slight negative stemming from what was, overall, a bullish conference call was management reigning in expectations for 2H13, but upping the official guidance. During the call management guided for 3QFY13 EPS of $0.50-0.53 and 4QFY13 EPS of $0.54-0.57, versus consensus of $0.54 and $0.57, respectively. The coffee cost tailwinds should continue well into FY15 now, offsetting continued investments in growth-related initiatives. 


Food remains Starbucks’ Achilles’ heel.  The acquisition of La Boulange is a long way from being branded a “success”.  As of yesterday, there were 439 stores carrying La Boulange products, including all stores in the San Francisco Bay Area.  The company is planning a rollout of La Boulange pastries in the Pacific Northwest including Seattle in June, then will expand to cities including Los Angeles and Chicago, followed later in the year by New York and Boston. The company is on track to have La Boulange products in all of our U.S. company operated stores by the end of 2014.



Howard Penney

Managing Director


Rory Green

Senior Analyst

Short EVEP: New "Best Idea"

We are adding short EV Energy Partners (EVEP) to our "Best Ideas List."  We will give a presentation/conference call on Thursday, May 2nd, at 1pm EST, to walk through the thesis in depth.  Clients will receive the materials and dial-in information shortly before the call.  



  • EV Energy Partners (EVEP) is an upstream MLP that most analysts value using an arbitrary yield target, rather than considering the intrinsic value of the assets (present value of future free cash flows).  As we have found with LINN Energy (LINE, LNCO), this can create a severe mispricing of the security.
  • EVEP has overpromised and under-delivered with respect to a monetization of its Utica acreage package.  We expect that the sale will continue to disappoint expectations with respect to price and timing.
  • While analysts and investors have been laser-focused on EVEP’s Utica sale for the last 24 months, the value of the core asset base (Barnett Shale and conventional fields) has eroded to the point where the latest after-tax PV-10 of $867MM barely exceeds EVEP’s net debt of $852MM.
  • Financially, EVEP is in bad shape, and it’s set to get worse.  We believe that EVEP will have to do at least one of the following in 2013: raise equity; take on additional debt (despite being over-levered at 5x 2013 open EBITDA); use any Utica proceeds to fund capex and/or the distribution (instead of acquiring additional assets); cut the distribution.
  • We believe that fair value for EVEP is ~$18 - 27/unit (40 - 60% downside from the current price).




EV Energy Partners (EVEP) is a $2.0B market cap upstream MLP with producing assets in the Barnett Shale (59% of 1P reserves); multiple legacy, conventional plays like the Austin Chalk and Knox; undeveloped acreage in the Utica Shale (for sale); and a nascent midstream business. 


E&P private equity firms EnerVest and EnCap created EVEP in 2006 shortly after LINN Energy (LINE, LNCO) went public.  EnerVest (71.25%), EnCap (23.75%), and EV Investors (5%) own 100% of EVEP’s General Partner (GP), “EV Energy GP,”   and all incentive distribution rights (IDRs).  All EVEP board members are either directly affiliated with EnerVest or were appointed by EnerVest or EnCap.


EnerVest’s operating base includes ~3 Tcfe of 1P reserves and ~550 Mmcfe/d of production; EnerVest operates 93% of EVEP’s assets.


In typical E&P MLP form, EVEP acquires low decline assets with a high percentage of PDP reserves; since 2006 the Company has completed $1.9B of acquisitions - the two largest coming in 4Q10 and 4Q11 in the Barnett Shale ($700MM combined).  EVEP often acquires assets from EnerVest and/or EnCap-sponsored companies (“drop downs”), or from unaffiliated parties (Encana, Petrohawk, Range Resources, EXCO, Anadarko) alongside EnerVest.


At YE12, EVEP had 905 Bcfe of 1P reserves (76% developed, 67% gas, 24% NGLs, and 9% oil) with an after-tax PV-10 of $867MM.  In 2012 EVEP produced 163 Mmcfe/d (71% gas, 18% NGLs, 11% oil), and has guided 2013 production to -1% y/y on E&P spending of ~$100MM.  


EVEP has ~170,000 net acres prospective for the Utica Shale, and has been trying to monetize ~104,000 of them since 1Q12; so far, it’s been an unsuccessful effort.  EVEP has now broken that package into 13 separate packages (by county) to attract more interest.  We believe that the majority of EVEP’s Utica acreage that is for sale is in the “oil window,” (or west of it) where Chesapeake, Anadarko, Consol, and Devon have had limited success to date.  Monetizing this acreage and then completing a 10-31 exchange with EnerVest for producing assets is EVEP’s main priority.


EVEP owns minority stakes in two Utica midstream companies, “Utica East Ohio” and “Cardinal Gas Services.”  EVEP is set to invest $335 - $395MM into these companies over the next 5 years, with $230 - $250MM in 2013 alone.  These assets are expected to generate ~$65MM of annual EBITDA net to EVEP by 2016/2017.


Kevin Kaiser

Senior Analyst

Early Look

daily macro intelligence

Relied upon by big institutional and individual investors across the world, this granular morning newsletter distills the latest and most vital market developments and insures that you are always in the know.

MCD: You Deserve A Short Today

Takeaway: McDonald’s squeezes profits to gain market share. A gambit that may pay off – or not. For not it’s “Little Mac."

“Little Mac”?  The Case for Shorting McDonald’s

Restaurants sector head Howard Penney adds his Short call on McDonald’s (MCD) to Hedgeye’s Best Ideas with an institutional conference call titled “MCD: Flying Too Close To The Sun.”


With over 34,000 locations worldwide, MCD is the world’s largest restaurants company – both by sales and by market capitalization.  Some 80% of MCD outlets are franchised – mostly in the US – and Penney argues that this has had a negative impact on planning.  While MCD has made a very visible push in recent years to expand in Asia, the Pacific region, the Middle East and Africa (“APMEA”) – with special focus on China – the US remains its biggest market and, says Penney, it’s Achilles’ Heel (Icarus, Deadalus, Achilles… it may be appropriate that a presentation that questions a major company’s fundamental growth story is full of references to mythology!)


Where Do They Make Their Money?

MCD’s most significant source of revenues is in Europe.  Over 39% of the company’s revenues come from Europe, versus 32% from the US – and 23% from APMEA (including China).  Penney points out that the majority of European stores are company owned.  Even though the ongoing Euro-Zone crisis is taking its toll, Europe, with a high percentage of company-owned stores, remains more profitable than the US, with its high percentage of franchised locations. Management is focusing its growth plans on the APMEA markets, but Penney points out that the combination of weak economic conditions in the Euro-Zone, and low profit margins in the US – which together combine for 80% of MCD’s earnings power – will drive disappointing differences between analyst projections of earnings per share and actual reported earnings over the next few years.


What Do The Numbers Look Like?

Analyst expectations have already been trimmed, with consensus for 2013 EPS at around $5.80.  But Penney sees global same-store sales growth declining – he thinks growth rates worldwide could end the year nearly flat, which should drag earnings estimates significantly lower.  Nobody likes a downside surprise.  


Except, that is, a short seller.


With 41% of stores, and just over 40% of sales revenues, the US represents by far the largest sales and unit base for the company.  But put those figures alongside the earnings numbers we quote above and you see that the US provides over 40% of global sales, but only 32% of earnings.  Europe, by contrast, represents 39% of earnings, on only 28% of sales.  And Europe is weakening.


What’s Wrong?

Penney says MCD’s management has gotten itself into an unrealistic position, looking to be both the low-priced and the premium-profit leader.  The company has positioned itself in the US as a super-discounter over the last decade.  But “Dollar Meals” don’t return big profits – ask any frustrated franchisee.  In their latest earnings call, the CFO acknowledged MCD “expects margins to be pressured throughout 2013.”  Translation: Heads up: we’re heading down!


Here are another couple of key takeaways from the CFO’s presentation:


“Our business model is built around growing comparable sales to a level where we can realize margin leverage.”  


Translation: if we can sell a whole lot more stuff at really low prices, sooner or later we’ll realize economies of scale and our profit margins will go up a little.


“In this environment, where you continue to have the cost pressures, so commodities will be up, labor rates are going up, et cetera, and yet you have soft economics, declining to flat eating out markets, that battle for market share becomes so critical to the long-term health of the business, that we’re willing to sacrifice a little bit of margin to maintain that traffic and grow the market share.”  


Translation: but right now, we have to take our already-tiny profit margins down even further in order to gain market share.  That “little bit of margin” we are willing to sacrifice – but hey, we only have a little bit in the first place – oops… there goes the profit margin.


You Don’t Get A Break Today

Penney points to a number of factors underpinning his bearish case.


At the macro level, US consumers are feeling better and spending more, and are less dependent on cheap prices.  Europe, meanwhile, just keeps getting worse.


At the company level, MCD same store sales are deteriorating globally, while the company suffers from “self-inflicted wounds.”  Two key examples are an unacceptable level of operating complexity, and an inability to field new ideas.


With only tiny profit margins on the majority of their menu, speed and efficiency at mealtimes become critical.  Every store has to run at top efficiency to speed diners through between the critical 11:30AM-1:00PM lunch hour.  As one example of poor planning, Penney points to the freestanding beverage stations, which customers enjoy, but which make the back-of-house operation much more complex, because staff must repeatedly stop serving customers to go out and service the machines.  When a discounter, which is already operating at near-maximum capacity, has to slow down its throughput to tend to an unnecessary machine… well, you get the picture.


And Penney says senior management seems surprisingly uninterested in very specific issues raised by franchisees.  MCD management have their game plan which they expect all locations to implement, while they continue to push for new-store growth outside the US and Europe.  This means that, while MCD goes through the expense of expanding in new markets, they are not getting incremental benefit out of their highest-revenue and highest-profit generating regions.  Management appears to be building a more profitable company-owned base of overseas stores on the back of – and at the expense of – its US franchisees.  This can lead to alienation of MCD’s most important revenue base.



Penney expects MCD to disappoint in Q3, and likely also in Q4 of this year, leading to analysts downgrading the stock and pushing prices lower.


MCD’s ongoing focus on “value” (i.e. cheap prices) continues to destroy profit margins and cash flow – and to frustrate franchisees in its biggest market.  Penney says the only way out now is the highly unlikely success of a “magic bullet” – a premium product that everybody loves.  But MCD has defined itself as a “value” chain.  After so many years at the low end of the price range, they will have a very hard time trying to introduce a premium offering.


Add to that the recent surge in their closest competition.  Wendy’s (WEN) is now being run by an outstanding operator / innovator.  Taco Bell, says Penney, “is on fire” with popular new product offerings and an on-target marketing campaign.  Even Burger King (BKW) – a company Penney went bearish on earlier this year (See BKW report HERE___) has gotten itself organized enough to present a marginal headwind for MCD.


“Don’t get me wrong,” says Penney.  “MCD is a great company.  It’s a financially strong global company, and they will probably raise the dividend again.”  But a range of near- and intermediate-term problems that will lead to earnings disappointments.  Penney thinks the market will not be forgiving, at least over the next two quarters.  


Morning Reads From Our Sector Heads

Todd Jordan (GLL):


Survey shows visitors gamble less (via USA Today)


Rob Campagnino (Consumer Staples):


GrainCorp agrees to ADM’s sweetened A$3bn offer (via FT)


Josh Steiner (Financials):


US regulators urge quick Libor replacement (via FT)


Drop in Borrowing Squeezes Banks (via WSJ)


Bernanke Says Alternatives to Libor Being Considered (via Bloomberg)


Brian McGough (Retail):


George Soros Buys Into J.C. Penney (via WWD)


Matthew Hedrick (Europe):


Spain Slashes "Growth" Outlook, Projects Higher Deficit, Delays Deficit Reduction (via Zerohedge)


Kevin Kaiser (Energy):


Ras Tanura Oil-Tanker Capacity Seen Falling 13% in Latest Week (via Bloomberg)


Jay Van Sciver (Industrials):


KBR Announces First Quarter 2013 Results (via KBR)

America Grows

Client Talking Points

Strength In Housing

The housing market continues to impress investors with its recovery. We're seeing a combination of positive indicators that indicate demand is on the rise. Home prices are rising, volumes are up, mortgage demand has increased thanks to ultra-low rates (the 15-year fixed-rate is at an all-time low) and inventory isn't bloated. Put all these together and you have true economic recovery that makes the US housing market one of the most attractive investments out there.

Employment Stabilizing

Talking heads on news programs may indicate otherwise, but the employment situation in the United States is doing quite well. The latest initial jobless claims numbers prove that we're seeing sequential improvement on a month-over-month basis. Both seasonally adjusted and non-seasonally adjusted claims show an improving trend in the labor market. Jobs, along with housing, all fit into the consumption game. Consumers are working hard, buying homes and hitting the grocery store and gas pump and spending money. Consumption is the key to global growth and right now, things are looking up.

Asset Allocation


Top Long Ideas

Company Ticker Sector Duration

Decent earnings visibility, stabilized market share, and aggressive share repurchases should keep a floor on the stock.  Near-term earnings, potentially big orders from Oregon and South Dakota, and news of proliferating gaming domestically could provide near term catalysts for a stock that trades at only 11x EPS.  We believe that multiple is unsustainably low – and management likely agrees given the buyback – for a company with the balance sheet and strong cash flow as IGT.  Given private equity’s interest in WMS (they lost out to SGMS) – a company similar to IGT that unlike IGT generates little free cash – we wouldn’t rule out a privatizing transaction to realize the inherent value in this company. 


WWW is one of the best managed and most consistent companies in retail. We’re rarely fans of acquisitions, but the recent addition of Sperry, Saucony, Keds and Stride Rite (known as PLG) gives WWW a multi-year platform from which to grow. 


With FedEx Express margins at a 30+ year low and 4-7 percentage points behind competitors, the opportunity for effective cost reductions appears significant. FedEx Ground is using its structural advantages to take market share from UPS. FDX competes in a highly consolidated industry with rational pricing. Both the Ground and Express divisions could be separately worth more than FDX’s current market value, in our view.

Three for the Road


"Whoa, Burger King a whopper (20%) of div increase. However... "comp sales growth was not up to our expectations..." Which trumps which? $BKW" -@herbgreenberg


"Instead of giving a politician the keys to the city, it might be better to change the locks." -Doug Larson


Economy in US expanded 2.5% in Q1 compared with 3% projected growth.

Attention Students...

Get The Macro Show and the Early Look now for only $29.95/month – a savings of 57% – with the Hedgeye Student Discount! In addition to those daily macro insights, you'll receive exclusive content tailor-made to augment what you learn in the classroom. Must be a current college or university student to qualify.