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SBUX WELL CAFFEINATED

Our CEO Keith McCullough likes to frame sentiment as being bullish, bearish, or not enough of one or the other. The investment community is not bullish enough on Starbucks. The bear case does not scare us when it comes to Starbucks. We decided to run through some bull and bear points to refresh clients on our thesis.

 

Summary


We remain bullish on Starbucks at current levels. Despite the stock trading at the high end of its historical consensus forward earnings and cash flow multiples, we believe more upside is in store. Bullish factors we are focused on include rapid unit growth in China, expansion into new segments of the global food and beverage industry, and a commodity tailwind that only seems to be getting stronger.

 

Below, we go through the bear and bull cases for SBUX and offer our thoughts on each sub-point.

 

 

Performance

 

Starbucks has been a favorite name of ours for virtually all of the last four years. Aside from a period in 3Q12, when our research process suggested a more cautious stance was necessary, we have been bullish on the stock as it has taken share from competitors in existing businesses and grown its touch points in tangent areas of the food and beverage industries. Despite strong outperformance and plenty of bearish arguments to the contrary, we are reiterating our bullish stance today as we believe that the investment community is bullish, but not bullish enough, at this price.

 

As the quantitative levels, below, indicate, SBUX is in bullish formation with the immediate-term risk range at $62.63-$64.56 and TREND level support at $59.57.

 

SBUX WELL CAFFEINATED - sbux levels 66

 

 

Bear Case: Valuation, Sentiment, Portfolio Pitfall, Personnel Changes, EMEA, Brewer Growing Pains

 

Valuation

 

Valuation is a factor we consider when formulating all investment theses but is not, in itself, a thesis. It’s impossible to know if Starbucks’ stock is cheap or expensive at current levels unless one knows the forward earnings of the company. What would make the stock cheap to us is if the future growth potential of the company was being overestimated by the investment community. We do not believe that it is.

 

SBUX WELL CAFFEINATED - sbux valuation cahnge

 

SBUX WELL CAFFEINATED - sbux eeg FY13

 

 

Sentiment

 

The investment community has become more bullish on Starbucks over the past year as the stock price has risen and visibility on the company’s future growth strategies has increased. Casual dining has seen sentiment rise more than quick service as investors have sought exposure to more discretionary niches of the consumer space. We believe that the stock has further to run over the intermediate TREND and long-term TAIL durations. Our CEO Keith McCullough likes to frame sentiment as being bullish, bearish, or not enough of one or the other. The investment community is not bullish enough on Starbucks.

 

SBUX WELL CAFFEINATED - sbux sentiment historical

 

 

Portfolio Pitfalls & Growing Pains

 

The history of the restaurant industry is littered with anecdotes of management teams that thought they could grow forever at an ever-increasing rate. Executive compensation structures more closely tied to unit growth targets than returns typified the folly of so many quick service and casual dining companies. Many companies have reaped the negative rewards of growing too fast and/or adding too many concepts to the company’s structure.

 

With respect to growth, Starbucks has not been perfect throughout its history. Between 2005 and 2009, Starbucks almost doubled its number of locations, to almost 17,000. In 2007, Howard Schultz flagged changes in the consumer experience to then-CEO Jim Donald as counter-productive initiatives.  Examples included “flavor-locked packaging” and complicated espresso machines that eroded the degree to which visiting Starbucks resonated with consumers.

 

Perhaps the most acute risk we see in Starbucks’ future trajectory is the growing number of ventures under the auspices of the current management team. We expressed this on 6/5/12 in a note titled “ONE MOVE TOO MANY?”, writing  that the company seemed to be embarking on an investment phase implied added risk to the share price. Managing five concepts, we wrote, seemed to be a departure from the returns-focused strategy had added value to the company in recent years.

The best argument against the idea that Starbucks will begin to destroy value by overstretching its shareholders’ capital is the current management team’s leadership.  Schultz’ emphasis on discipline and rigor in his team’s approach to making capital allocation decisions differs greatly from other, less effective, executives in the industry.

 

 

Executive Changes

 

As Starbucks becomes larger, and a greater number of individuals assume leadership positions, the potential for executives to leave to pursue alternative paths could increase. Michelle Gass leaving the company for Kohl’s Corp. is a blow, with CEO Howard Schultz having praised her impact on several key areas of the business including a key role in the turnaround of 2008/2009.

 

What Gass’ departure means for the stock is difficult to know. The pessimist may infer that her departure represents, in part, a lack of confidence in Starbucks’ future trajectory as she had, just one month ago, been called back from her role leading the EMEA division to work in an undefined leadership role under Schultz focusing on making the “pieces” of Starbucks work together, according to The Wall Street Journal. Gass worked for Stabucks for 16 years and, in time, may have been a candidate to assume a leadership role in the company’s C-Suite.

 

We believe that Gass’ departure from the company is a negative but, given her focus on the EMEA division over the past couple of years, it is clear that the company has many other talented individuals that have helped drive important areas of the enterprise forward. If we were to speculate, we would guess that the incentive of almost $10 million over the next four years likely had more of an impact than unease in her role at Starbucks.

 

 

EMEA

 

The weakness of Europe’s economies poses a risk to all global companies but we believe that Starbucks is relatively well-prepared to weather the storm. The company derives a very small proportion of its earnings, or less than 2% of total consolidated operating income, from EMEA which offers shareholders peace of mind as Europe continues to struggle to find economic momentum. Even with such a low degree of exposure, the company is taking a proactive approach to mitigating the risk of further economic turbulence in EMEA by increasing the proportion of licensed to company-owned stores.

 

SBUX WELL CAFFEINATED - sbux emea pod1

 

SBUX WELL CAFFEINATED - yum mcd sbux opinc

 

 

Bull Case: Strong Dollar, Growth Runway, Commodity Costs, Mgmt Team, ROIIC

 

Strong Dollar, Strong America, Strong Consumption

 

In November 2012, our Macro team turned positive on U.S. growth, which is 71% consumption, as the strengthening U.S. Dollar gave consumers a food and energy price cut. With the U.S. economy continuing to improve, we believe that Starbucks is one of the best ways to play a strengthening consumer. Jobless Claims, in particular, are an important metric for Starbucks’ Americas business as, in the most basic terms possible, more people going to work translates very closely into more people buying coffee as part of their daily routine.

 

SBUX WELL CAFFEINATED - sbux americas pod1

 

 

Growth Runway

 

The strength of Starbucks’ Americas retail business is well-appreciated. Additional growth over the long-term TAIL will be largely driven by other segments of the business such as CPG, China, India, K-Cups, single-serve, home brewers, tea ($40 billion category), juice, and food among others. With management aiming to double the China unit count to 1,500 from 700 by the end of 2015 and viewing the CPG business as potentially becoming as large as the U.S. retail business, we believe that Starbucks is far from the end of the growth phase of its maturity curve.

 

 

Coffee Costs

 

Favorable coffee costs, coinciding with strong top-line growth, have resulted in strong earnings and cash flow generation. This tailwind is likely to continue through the end of the year and beyond, with management expecting a $100 million tailwind from coffee in 2014.

 

SBUX WELL CAFFEINATED - coffee chart

 

 

Management Team

 

This is not a quantifiable factor but for anyone that has been following the restaurant space for any significant period of time, it is evident that a management team’s aptitude is often evident in their communications with the investor communities. Starbucks, over the last five or six years, has demonstrated a consistency in its message and its commitment to prudent growth that has set is apart from most of its competitors. Starbucks’ brand is one of the best-recognized in the world as the company has taken proactive steps to build an industry-leading loyalty program and an unrivalled social media presence, which has manifested in strong organic growth.

 

 

ROIIC

 

Last, but certainly not least, the ROIIC metric indicates that management is walking the walk. This chart is a key component of our process on all restaurant names – particularly those growing units – and Starbucks is better than most at sustaining a disciplined approach to expanding its business operations.

 

SBUX WELL CAFFEINATED - sbux roiic

 

 

Howard Penney

Managing Director

 

Rory Green

Analyst

 


Oversold: SP500 Levels, Refreshed

Takeaway: It didn’t take people long to get really bearish again, because consensus has been bearish for the last 6 months.

This note was originally published June 06, 2013 at 13:23 in Macro

POSITION: 12 LONGS, 5 SHORTS @Hedgeye

 

It didn’t take people long to get really bearish again, because consensus has been bearish for the last 6 months. Once again, the market is immediate-term TRADE oversold within a bullish intermediate-term TREND.

 

As both the consumption data (ISM Services PMI, New Orders, Housing, etc) and employment data (jobless claims 347,000) surprise to the bullish side, who would have thought that #GrowthAccelerating would become the latest fear? At least with Cyprus things were actually burning.

 

Across our core risk management durations, here are the lines that matter to me most:

 

  1. Immediate-term TRADE resistance 1624, then 1673
  2. Immediate-term TRADE oversold < 1601
  3. Intermediate-term TREND support = 1577

 

In other words, we snapped one of my front-runner lines (immediate-term TRADE support of 1624) and the machines chased. This isn’t new. Neither is front-month vitality (VIX) pinning another 6-month lower-high.

 

This is what happens when hedge fund performance is bad and consensus is forced to cover high and short low.

 

KM

 

Keith R. McCullough
Chief Executive Officer

 

Oversold: SP500 Levels, Refreshed - SPX

 


Trade of the Day: FXY

Takeaway: We shorted the Yen (FXY) at 3:05PM at $100.81.

The gong show in Tokyo didn’t disappear overnight. We are witnessing a big time immediate-term TRADE overbought signal here in Burning Yen. Its bearish remains TREND intact. Short it. Short it again. Short it with impunity.

 

Trade of the Day: FXY - FXY

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


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Keith's Top-7 Tweets Today

Takeaway: A quick look at some of Keith's top tweets today.

There's only been 1 firm that has told u to buy every higher-low in US stocks in 2013, the the Old Wall hates us for it

@KeithMcCullough 4:02 PM

 

I've been short plenty of bear markets in the last 15 years, this ain't one of them

@KeithMcCullough 4:00 PM

 

Hedgeye home gamers smiling w/ that long $XLF leading the Braveheart charge towards 1624 where there will be blood

@KeithMcCullough 3:36 PM

 

$KKR does not look good - anyone know why who can tell us without going to jail?

@KeithMcCullough 3:33 PM

 

I'd actually rather this market remain weak into the jobs print - need to draw all 2013 bears out of their caves

@KeithMcCullough 3:16 PM

 

$SPY = -2.9% from all-time highs and consensus still trying to call end of world #EOW

@KeithMcCullough 10:10 AM

 

To be clear, most people missed being long this 250 pt move $SPY

@KeithMcCullough 10:09 AM

 

Keith's Top-7 Tweets Today - tweet


Gong Show In Tokyo!

Takeaway: Japan is just 2.5% away from falling into full-blown crash mode.

Asia is looking worse and worse by the day. China and Hong Kong were both down over 1% overnight.

 

Chalk it up to an ugly China exports number which was up 7%, rather than 14%. (For the record, they are making up the number. Hedgeye Macro Analyst Darius Dale was all over this a month ago.) In a nutshell, they’re making up fake invoices and last month’s number was massively inflated. Incidentally, Bloomberg wrote about it this morning: “China Export Gains Seen Halved With Fake-Data Crackdown.” It’s refreshing to see people finally acknowledging this fraudulence.

 

At the bottom of the Asian barrelJapan. Get this: the Weimar Nikkei is now bearish both Trade and Trend in our quantitative risk management model. Japan is within walking distance - 2.5% - of falling into full-blown crash mode, which would be a 20% peak-to-trough decline. None of this come as any real surprise to people who don’t subscribe to Japan’s Sapporo-eyed, Keynesian Kool-Aid experiment.

 

Krugman? Yes, Krugman is surprised.

 

Gong Show In Tokyo! - Nikkei Gong Show


Oversold: SP500 Levels, Refreshed

Takeaway: It didn’t take people long to get really bearish again, because consensus has been bearish for the last 6 months.

POSITION: 12 LONGS, 5 SHORTS @Hedgeye

 

It didn’t take people long to get really bearish again, because consensus has been bearish for the last 6 months. Once again, the market is immediate-term TRADE oversold within a bullish intermediate-term TREND.

 

As both the consumption data (ISM Services PMI, New Orders, Housing, etc) and employment data (jobless claims 347,000) surprise to the bullish side, who would have thought that #GrowthAccelerating would become the latest fear? At least with Cyprus things were actually burning.

 

Across our core risk management durations, here are the lines that matter to me most:

 

  1. Immediate-term TRADE resistance 1624, then 1673
  2. Immediate-term TRADE oversold < 1601
  3. Intermediate-term TREND support = 1577

 

In other words, we snapped one of my front-runner lines (immediate-term TRADE support of 1624) and the machines chased. This isn’t new. Neither is front-month vitality (VIX) pinning another 6-month lower-high.

 

This is what happens when hedge fund performance is bad and consensus is forced to cover high and short low.

 

KM

 

Keith R. McCullough
Chief Executive Officer

 

Oversold: SP500 Levels, Refreshed - SPX

 


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