• run with the bulls

    get your first month

    of hedgeye free


VFC: Investors Ignoring the BIG Question

Takeaway: The real question for VFC...Why remain an 'above-avg' portfolio instead of entering the seller's market and downsizing to a GREAT portfolio?

CONCLUSION: We think that VFC succeeded in focusing investors on the big picture at its Analyst Day, but there is still a massive 'trust me' element to this model. Granted, management has earned the benefit of the doubt, but a lot needs to go right to hit its targets. We think the bigger question people are not asking is why this company has five different Brand Coalitions and is operating an 'above average' portfolio, instead of downsizing to a portfolio that is truly 'great'.  After all, it's a seller's market.



We've read through a lot of commentary about the VFC analyst day, and as quantitatively concise as the company's targets are, there were elements of the presentation that we don't think are well represented in the risk/reward. The general sentiment sounds something like  a) Same 'ol great quality management, b) aggressive 10% global sales growth targets (presuming acquisitions come through), c) a hockey stick acceleration in EBIT margins from 13.5%-16.0%, d) $18.00 in EPS in 5-years (better than the $17.00 in '17 that they are setting as 'official' goals), and e) a 300-400bp improvement in ROIC. 


Presuming the company hits its goals, the stock is trading at 10x that earnings number today, or 17x 2013. IF you believe these targets and think that current peakish multiples can hold for another 5-years, you're looking at about a $300 stock in 5-years  (1827 days, but hey, who's counting?), or a 10-12% CAGR in VFC's stock.   That's nice, but a lot needs to go right for it to happen, and the end result is a return that we'd consider 'about average'.


There's something about the crux of the presentation that did not sit well with us, and that's the lack of detail around how VFC is going to achieve these targets. We understand that it's hard to give such specific detail for a company with a portfolio of 27 brands.  But there was very much a feel of 'trust us…we'll do it.'  In fact, their overall tone was about as bullish as we've heard any management team in a long while.  And when we marry such a bullish tone with high yet unsubstantiatiated targets (that the Street will blindly bake right into their models), it makes us a bit weary.


In fairness, this is a management team that has earned our respect in executing upon its promised goals. So when they say they're going to do something, it means they're probably going to do it.  But adding $5.2bn to a $5.9bn Outdoor and Action Sports business over just 5-years? That's a big big number, and the supporting context was sparse.


The BIG Question

Regardless of the targets, here's a bigger question for us… The company plans to add $6.4bn in revenue over 5-years. Yet $5.2bn, or 81% of that is in the Outdoor and Action Sports arena.   They are making it clear that the Outdoor business is diversifying both geographically and seasonally to maximize growth potential while mitigating volatility.   It accounts for 55% of sales today, and within 5-years' time should be 64% of sales.  That's great. But the simple question is…"Why not 100% of sales instead of 64%? Why do they have the other four brand coalitions a all?"


We could justify being in the denim business. It owns two of the most stable and steady brands in the business in Wrangler and Lee.  In addition, it has a mid/high-teens margins and the highest ROIC at the company since it owns a significant portion of its own manufacturing facilities.


But as for its' other three Coalitions? Contemporary (7 for all mankind), Sportswear (Nautica), and Imagewear (Majestic)… why is it in these businesses at all? The brands are all what we'd consider 'average to above-average.' But we're only interested in owning brands that are truly 'Great'. VFC has three great brands. The North Face, Vans and Timberland, and they are all in the Outdoor Coalition. The other brands that are on the bench as being 'potentially great' (such as Smartwool, Napapijri, Reef, and Lucy) also happen to be in the Outdoor group.


We're not suggesting that VFC gets out of the 'portfolio of apparel brands' business. But simply that a more focused 'portfolio of Outdoor/Action Sports brands' might make a lot more sense. At a minimum, we'd pay a higher multiple for it. For example, the company is now trading at about 14x TTM EBIT. Two points of multiple expansion on a smaller, but more focused portfolio of outdoor and Jeanswear brands yields an immediate return 14% above current levels -- and that's before considering what we think would be between $1.5bn and $2bn ($13-$18/share) in proceeds from the rest of the portfolio.  This is wishful thinking, as we don't think VFC would ever consider going there. But this is where we think the most value would be created for shareholders.


Takeaway: The US Dollar is the most important thing in my model right now.

(Excerpted from this morning's Hedgeye conference call)


The US Dollar is the most important thing in my model right now. It is literally sitting right on its trend line. To a penny.




This is like a golf ball sitting right on the edge of a hole.


What are you going to do? Blow on it? You’ve got to wait. You’ve got to watch.


If you’re an intermediate term, or long term investor, you should just wait. Why wouldn’t you just wait? Eventually someone’s going to blow on that ball one way or another. It’s either going to go into the hole, it’s going to go in the hole or it’s going to break down.


The point here is that if the USD breaks its trend line, that would be something new. That’s not something we’ve seen for six months. It’s our Hedgeye Chart of the Day. It’s the most important thing in my notebook this morning. It’s obviously something I am focused on.


Bottom line: I’ll say this until I’m blue in the face. If you want to get Global Equities right, you have to get the US Dollar right.

Turkey. . . Much Ado About Nothing?

Takeaway: Turkish protests are creating a lot of headlines, but we think they will have little impact on long term fundamentals.

"Turkey is not a second-class democracy.”


                -Turkish Foreign Minister to Secretary of State John Kerry


To say Turkish equity markets have been volatile over the last two weeks would be an understatement.  In fact, on June 3rd the main Turkish equity index was down more than 10% as emphasized in the chart below.  While Turkey was largely immune to the so called Arab Spring, the current series of protests that have  been grabbing media headlines around the world appear to be a Turkish version of sorts, at least at first blush. 


Turkey. . . Much Ado About Nothing? - Turkey XU100 Index  elections


Turkey. . . Much Ado About Nothing? - Turkey XU100 During Protest


Stepping back, the Turkish economy has been the fastest-growing economy in Europe since the early 2000s. In 2002, current Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan won his first general election and since then the XU100 index is up almost 9x, which can be seen on the graphs presented. Turkey is now the 15th largest world economy on purchasing parity basis.  The key components of the highly diverse Turkish economy include: agriculture which is 30% of employment (Turkey is food independent), the fourth largest ship building sector in the world, the 10th largest producer of minerals, and a very active tourism industry (with 11 of the top hotels in the world located there).


Turkey has also been much less affected by the financial crisis of 2008/2009 than many of its European peers.  In fact, Turkish GDP grew 9.2% in 2010 and 8.5% in 2011 (long term growth rates are highlighted in the chart below), which were some of the highest growth rates in the industrialized world.  The derivative impact of this economic growth is that the country level fiscal situation level is very healthy.   In fact, Turkey has met the 60% debt-to-EBITDA criteria of the Maastricht Treaty every year since 2004. As a result of the healthy economy, the Turkish Lira has been stable over the past few years with inflation under control.


Turkey. . . Much Ado About Nothing? - Turkey GDP


Much of the economic success over the past decade can be attributed to Prime Minister Erdogan, who has been in power for most of that period.  Erdogan inherited an economy that was deep in recession in 2002 and with the help of Finance Minister Ali Babacan, Erdogan implemented a series of reforms. One key reform included dramatically reducing government regulations, which subsequently altered the path and outlook for the Turkish economy.  Perhaps most telling on this front is the fact that inflation was at 35% when Erdogan gained power and CPI is now running sub-5%.  


Given the economic backdrop and improving economic situation of the average Turk over the last decade, the protests against the government are somewhat counterintuitive.  Regardless, they are occurring with increasing scale.  The map and timeline below highlights this fact showing the spread of protests across Turkey. To date, these protests have led to 3 fatalities and 5,000 injuries.  


Turkey. . . Much Ado About Nothing? - Turkey Map


Turkey. . . Much Ado About Nothing? - Turkey Events


The protests in Turkey, though similar to the protests against local governments that erupted in the Arab Spring revolutions seen in northern Africa with Tunisia, Egypt, and Libya, also hold some specific differences. The unrest shown against Erdogan and his government is different because in the Arab Spring countries the protests were directed to the dictatorships that ascended to power, rather than democratically voted into office. On the other hand Erdogan has won every important democratic election.   As well, the Arab Spring was initially catalyzed by the poor economic situation of the broad populace.


To be fair, the AKP and Erdogan have lost some of their popular appeal and are being accused of infringing on personal freedoms in Turkey.  Recently the government implemented a restriction on alcohol sales and has also been allegedly imposing conservative Islamic views in legislation. The protesters have stood up, and have fought against police brutality and restrictions on labor unions.


There are a few options to what will happen next in Turkey. A scenario similar to the Arab Spring does not seem plausible, where protests fueled by the dissatisfaction of government led to complete regime changes in Tunisia, Egypt, and Libya. It is unlikely because the Erdogan has had such a positive impact on Turkey’s economy and the violence in the Turkish protests are not to scale of the Arab Spring.  In essence, there is no military or armed support to the protests.


Another option is for the protesters to eventually give in with no major changes being enacted or seen in the government. Erdogan has been visiting cities to gain more supporters so that he and the AK party will again win the popular vote in the Presidential elections in 2014.  


Ultimately, we do not think these protests will trump the strong track record of Erdogan and will eventually pass, although he may have to acquiesce on the civil liberties front.  The biggest tell to us on this front is a chart of credit default swaps on Turkish government debt.  While they are elevated, they are still largely in normal territory and are not signaling imminent economic or fiscal stress, which would come from a broad popular uprising akin to what occurred across the Middle East during the Arab Spring.


We aren’t ready to advise buying Turkish equities just yet, but our Hedgeyes are watching and waiting.


Daryl G. Jones

Director of Research


Turkey. . . Much Ado About Nothing? - Turkey CDS


Today at 11AM EDT, we hosted a flash call titled Are You Short China [and Other Emerging Markets] Yet? On the call, we provided an update to our bearish thesis on emerging markets and expanded upon a recently introduced a negative bias on Chinese financials and property developer stocks via the Global X China Financials ETF (CHIX). Each of the CHIX’s top 10 holdings are listed on the Hong Kong Stock Exchange for those of you looking for more liquid and direct ways to play this thesis.


In summary:


  • With respect to emerging market assets broadly, we continue to recommend that clients sell, short or avoid EM and commodity exposure altogether.
  • Looking to China specifically, we think the outlook for Chinese credit growth is structurally impaired. Moreover, we anticipate that growth in non-performing loans will accelerate sustainably over the long term. Lastly, we believe that net interest margins across the Chinese banking industry face immense regulatory headwinds that may ultimately have dire consequences for China’s fixed assets investment bubble.
  • At a bare minimum, investors should steer clear of these obvious value traps over the intermediate-to-long term. Moreover, we continue to believe assets linked to Chinese industrial demand will remain under pressure for the foreseeable future.


To access the replay podcast and accompanying presentation, please click on the following links:


Podcast: CLICK HERE 



As always, if there are any questions please shoot us an email and we’ll be sure to get back to you with a reply(ies).


Thank you for being a client; we are grateful for your support.


The Hedgeye Macro Team

What’s Next for Europe?

Takeaway: Key takeaways from Hedgeye's European economic update conference call.

Senior Macro sector analyst Matt Hedrick presented a European economic update conference call for our institutional clients.  Hedrick discussed the current climate and headwinds impeding growth; how current European Central Bank (ECB) policies affect the markets; the continuing disparity of policy choices, and of economic inputs – and especially outcomes – across the Eurozone; and risks and opportunities at the Eurozone’s periphery.


What’s Next for Europe? - ECB

Europe Who???


Henry Kissinger famously said – or maybe didn’t say, according to people who claim to know – “Who do I call if I want to call Europe?” 


The comment referred to the disorganized entity known as “Europe.”  Decades later, the EU has 27 members, while the currency club – “union” would be too strong a word – known as the Eurozone has 17 members with a common currency, a single central bank… and seventeen different economic policies.  That’s not seventeen different economic policies – it’s 17 different nations, each of which is internally arguing over what their economic policy should be, to say nothing of what happens when all seventeen sit down together at the same table.


The Eurozone history indicates there will not be any startling changes that will all of a sudden harmonize policy across the membership.  That would require a common willingness to make sacrifices, and the monetary “union,” as it insists on calling itself, remains beset by multi-lingual finger-pointing where the rich nations (read: Germany) blame economic weakness on the profligate habits of poorer nations; meanwhile the poor nations blame the rich (again, Germany) for being stingy.


The Eurozone policy debate remains a major stumbling block to making any economic progress.  The inability of the members to reach consensus continues to drag on, all the moreso when many members feel badly handled by their more flush fellows.


One negative outcome of this logjam has been an inability to effectively confront inflation – or deflation – both of which periodically threaten to break through ECB target levels.


And in general, economic policy is sclerotic.  Like a wounded limb, the Eurozone will only heal when healthy fresh blood pumps freely through the affected parts, and under the present political stalemate, that is simply not happening.  The “periphery” – the weaker economies more likely to need bailouts – can not heal before the core economies, principally Germany.  Eurozone output has declined for 6 consecutive quarters, and the ECB and the IMF have both revised their outlook downward.  Hedrick says these new forecasts may not be pessimistic enough and he expects Eurozone GDP to remain weak for a protracted period.


Unemployment should “remain staggeringly high,” with the very real risk of a “lost generation.”  The easy jobs in construction and unskilled manual labor (remember the “Polish plumber”?) vanished with the evaporation of easy credit and the real estate implosion.  Administrative jobs have been drastically reduced through austerity, and cross-border labor migration suffers from quotas, and linguistic barriers and cultural difference that can pose real problems.  Germany, for example, has a longstanding cultural tradition of robust training in the trades.  Workers from other countries who were not raised in this environment don’t do well in the apprenticeship system that has been so successful in Germany.  The disdain for skilled manual labor felt by youths from other cultures has proven to be a stumbling block to employment immigration.


We hasten to point out that large numbers of unemployed young people also becomes a recipe for major social unrest in the longer term.  The discontent that sparked such movements as the Arab Spring, Spain’s “Indignados” (credited as the impetus for Occupy Wall Street) – and that is now bubbling over in Istanbul – can easily provide the spark for a generation sullen over the failures of their elders.


Hedrick says high debt levels and deficits will persist, and the lack of availability of credit will hamper small and mid-sized business growth for a very long time to come.  Since most new jobs are created by start-up small and mid-sized businesses, the employment and business formation end of this dreary cycle looks set to continue.   


“Super” Mario?


Eurozone central banker Mario Draghi has had a certain degree of success “jawboning” the markets.  One might say that, compared to his US counterpart Ben Bernanke, his record is astounding.


Like Bernanke, Draghi has increased the flow of cash into his system.  And like the US, the increased liquidity has not translated into massive new lending.  But Draghi remains with an ace up his sleeve, in the form of a massive quantitative easing program called the “Outright Monetary Transactions” bond-buying program (OMT).  Just this week Draghi called the OMT “the most successful monetary policy measure” of recent times.  Last week he boasted that the OMT has made the Eurozone “a more stable and resilient place” by removing “unwarranted fears of a systemic collapse” of the monetary union.


The truly impressive bit about the OMT is that it has never been used.  In fact, this week a German is hearing arguments on whether the OMT would violate the German constitution.  We expect the approval to be forthcoming – probably in September or October.  But the mere fact of Draghi announcing the OMT in September 2012 was enough to pop European markets – bond yields retreated, and most European equity markets rose, with the effect that the “fear trade” no longer dominates.


There remains some way to go before stability returns to the Euro area.  Central bankers have not been helpful, saying little or nothing to give a sense of direction to the markets.  Rate manipulation is of limited effect – risk spreads on European CDS are down, but there’s not enough oomph in a negative return on consumer savings accounts to drive to a full recovery.

In the absence of anything resembling policy agreement across the Eurozone, Draghi looks to retain his ability to lift the markets by occasionally referring to the – as yet untried – OMT. 


Tighten das Belten


In “The Great Dictator,” Charlie Chaplin mocked (among other things) notions of Austerity, particularly as it relates to a Greater Cause.  With the bloom fading from the Great Cause that was European unity, austerity is becoming less popular with ruling politicians.  European Commission president Barroso recently said austerity policies have reached their limits of both social and political acceptance.  Translation: if we push one more inch, they’ll vote us out.

This may lead to more moderate policies – the German finance minister is already muttering that France and Spain may be granted “certain flexibility” in meeting deficit targets.


The move against austerity is becoming a tailwind, as planners start prognosticating “a very gradual recovery,” “export growth caused by growing foreign demand,” and a willingness to promote government-bolstered private-sector investment.


Countries and Opportunities –

Germany and France… er… France and Germany… er… Germany and…


It is all too rarely acknowledged that, so far, the Common Market and its descendants – including the EC and the Eurozone – have accomplished their primary objective, which was to remove incentives for France and Germany to go to war with each other.  With the ascent of French president Hollande the détente is nowhere near so close as during the days of “Merk-ozy.”  Nonetheless, the two nations combine to represent half the Eurozone’s economic output, and their joint – or conflicting – interests should continue to dominate the sclerotic policy scene. 



We see this as a net positive for Germany, where we are bullish.  German culture is work-oriented – French youths turn up their noses at the notion of becoming apprentices to German machine-shop operators, with the consequence that more Germans have jobs, while more Frenchmen continue to feel superior.

Germany’s export economy benefits from current weakness in the Euro, and it has one of the lowest unemployment rates in the Euro area.


Germany is a particularly bright spot, and one of the few countries where expectations are on the rise.  It will remain the European “safe haven.”  If, as we strongly anticipate, Merkel is re-elected this fall and if, as we strongly anticipate, the German court gives the go-ahead for the OMT, Germany should continue very much in the ascendant.


Investment idea: Long Germany through iShares Germany (EWG) and Short German government bonds through PowerShares DB German Bund Futures (BUNL)

… but France…

We are bearish on France where President Hollande appears decidedly “anti-business.”  He currently enjoys a mere 24% approval rating – the country slid back into recession in the first quarter and only 5% of the French think things will improve.  “Fifty million Frenchmen can’t be wrong,” they say.  We agree with their dour outlook and would be short this economy.  C’est la vie.


Investment idea: Short France through iShares France (EWQ)


Rule, Britannia  

The first economy to impose austerity, we think the UK will be the first to emerge.  Bullish elements – aside from an actual pick-up in growth in the first quarter – include new central banker Mark Carney, who has expressed his desire for greater transparency, and the pro-business stance of the Cameron government.  Its distance from the Eurozone – both political and monetary – give it great flexibility, and its import-heavy economy stands to benefit as the prices of commodities continue to deteriorate.


Recent increases in retail sales figures and industrial production, together with a dip in the savings rate, signal greater bullishness – or should we say “John Bullishness”? – in the UK, and the housing market has turned up as well.

Investment idea: Long the UK through iShares United Kingdom (EWU).  


Over the Edge: the “Periphery”


It can’t be nice being called “the Periphery.”  Just ask Portugal, Spain and Italy. 


Broad risks remain in these countries, one hold-up to the ECB launching new policy initiatives.  These governments may prove incapable of honoring commitments to Brussels under the variety of austerity and bail-out packages they have taken on.  Incurable mass unemployment may lead to severe social unrest – half of Italian youth are ready to leave the country to look for a better life.  And sovereign bank risk is not out of the question – Spain’s bank system remains opaque even after significant high-profile corruption cases that even touched the prime minister.


At the other end of the periphery, Slovenia looks like a relatively stable newcomer – its risks appear self-contained, and if it does need assistance, it is likely to be small and highly manageable.  Slovenia, in short, is not Cyprus.

Indeed, even Cyprus is no longer Cyprus.  Hedrick says the risk of another Cyprus-style crisis is minimal.  Cyprus has confirmed that, once they get in, no one wants to leave the Eurozone – and for all their complaining and chastising of weaker members, Germany can’t afford to have anyone flee the currency union.


On the negative side, these countries suffer from dreadful sentiment, crushing youth unemployment, and broad economic underperformance.  Their governments range from unappealing, to unstable.  Still, Hedgeye’s Macro readings have not yet flashed a definite Long or Short signal.  Hedrick doesn’t rule out the possibility that negative trends in the Periphery could stabilize.  If Germany recovers fast enough – and if France doesn’t lose more ground – there could be a positive contagion effect.


Investment ideas: For Spain, we would use the iShares Spain (EWP); for Italy, the iShares Italy (EWI).  It’s too soon to call a Short or Long in these markets.  We continue to monitor these economies to see which way the Macro cookie will crumble.


Conclusion: Portugal?


To everyone’s surprise – and to the relief of many – Portugal just successfully sold a 10-year government note issue.  This, in a country that was for a time viewed as the basket case of the Eurozone.


Portugal still has government debt at around 122% of GDP – the third highest in Europe.  Their bond issues are still costing them, though not so much as in the past.  Coupons are in the 5%-6% range, which is a meaningful improvement.  Hedrick says Portugal will want to join the OMT mechanism.  While it is too early to make a decisive call, the government is showing real initiative, taking steps to cut government spending and still considering austerity measures. 


We leave you with this analogy: in 1999 Portugal adopted a national strategy to fight drug addiction.  Drug users were no longer treated criminally, but as clinically sick persons requiring a range of treatments.  While it has by no means “cured” drug use, Portugal’s program is widely considered a viable alternative to the War on Drugs.  The expansion of harm reduction efforts, coupled with aggressive after-care and social reintegration programs, have dramatically reduced the social impact of drug abuse, including HIV infection. 


Like widespread drug addiction, the global financial malaise is not going to be “fixed” – not overnight, and maybe not ever.  But there are surely more effective ways to contain the addicts and to limit the harm they do to society.  After all, where there’s a will, there’s a way.


We are still waiting for Europe to show some willpower.  

Morning Reads on Our Radar Screen

Takeaway: A quick look at some stories we're reading this morning.

Morning Reads on Our Radar Screen - radar


Brian McGough – Retail

Macy's Terry Lundgren: 'We Will Try Everything' (via WWD)


Josh Steiner - Financials

US regulator gives big banks two years to push out swaps trading (via Reuters)

Bond Buffer Seen in Demand for Swaps Collateral: Credit Markets (via Bloomberg)


Daryl Jones – Macro

Can Bernanke Avoid a Meltdown in the Bond Market? (via Bloomberg)

Greece First Developed Market Cut to Emerging at MSCI (via Bloomberg)

Edward Snowden: how the spy story of the age leaked out (via The Guardian)


Kevin Kaiser - Energy

Start Your Engines: NatGas Revs for Transportation (via Breaking Energy)

New Worst Place in Manhattan Coming Soon (via Gawker)


Keith McCullough – CEO

Greece First Developed Market Cut to Emerging at MSCI (via Bloomberg)

US General Dunford: 'Fight for Afghan rights not over' (via BBC)

Daily Trading Ranges

20 Proprietary Risk Ranges

Daily Trading Ranges is designed to help you understand where you’re buying and selling within the risk range and help you make better sales at the top end of the range and purchases at the low end.