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NJOY Conference Call Summary And Key Takeaways

Yesterday we hosted a conference call on electronic cigarettes with Craig Weiss, CEO of NJOY, a closely-held manufacturer and marketer of electronic cigarettes.  This is part of a series of talks we’ve held with industry experts to better understand the growing e-cigarette category (click for replay podcast and presentation). We came away from the call with a number of insights on NJOY and the new and growing e-cig category, which we provide below under Presentation Highlights and Key Takeaways. Further below we’ve also reproduced what we thought was a very engaging and insightful Q&A session from Craig.

 

As it relates to our investment outlook, we remain very bullish on e-cigs, with category sales estimated at ~ $1.5B to $2B this year and poised to double in the coming years.  While the category only represents a minor (around 1-2%) portion of the overall sales portfolio of Big Tobacco and pending FDA legislation (more below) could stand to shake up the industry, we believe the interest and “buzz” from management and investors on the category is playing into U.S. tobacco stock prices, as both parties recognize the need for the industry to replace declining traditional cigarette volumes, albeit without cannibalizing existing business.

 

Our preferred tobacco stock on this front remains Lorillard (LO). Unlike Altria and Reynolds, who in the quarter joined the category with their own e-cig offerings, MarkTen and Vuse, respectively – LO bought Blu in April 2012 – we prefer LO, a company that is well aware that the FDA is considering restricting menthol.  We believe the company, highly levered to menthols (~85%), has less cannibalization risk pursuing e-cigs (especially should an FDA ban or some form of tighter restrictions be imposed down the road) vs MO or RAI due to its portfolio mix.  We think Blu is enjoying first-to-market advantage and in Q3 results, Blu saw strong sales growth of 11% quarter-over-quarter (+350% year-over-year) to $63MM. LO CEO Murray Kessler’s e-cig strategy appears to be to forgo short-term profits for long term gains: he sold e-cigs for break-even in the quarter and was able to boost Blu’s market share to 49% versus 40% last quarter. Over time, we do think that e-cigs can be margin-enhancing to the combined cigarette category.  For more see our note titled “What’s Big Tobacco Saying About E-Cigs in 3Q13?

 

FDA regulation remains one large wild card for the category.  The agency was expected to announce regulation this month—it’s anyone’s guess now just when that may happen. It’s our opinion that the FDA wants to protect the consumer, while not stifle e-cig innovation that can ultimately lead people away from the harmful combustible cigarettes. A few of the larger regulations expected to be addressed are online sales, flavors, and marketing, however regulations could go much further. It appears the science on e-cigs remains incomplete, which would suggest to us that the agency may err on the side of less regulation versus more regulation until the science is (more) conclusive.  [As a side note, the City Council of NYC decided yesterday to raise the minimum age to purchase cigarettes (and explicitly included e-cigs in the bill), which is expected to be signed off by Mayor Bloomberg and go into effect in 6 months.]

 

 

NJOY Presentation Highlights:

 

Founded in 2006 and ramping up distribution in 2009, NJOY is one of a handful of private companies that we believe can be competitive with Big Tobacco in the e-cig category.

 

NJOY is now in some 80,000 retail stores across channels nationwide with its traditional and menthol flavored disposable e-cigs and Craig says the opportunity for e-cigs is analogous to the impact that filtered cigarettes had in changing the industry, quoting Mark Twain: “History doesn’t repeat itself, but it does rhyme”.  Craig says that with its product offerings at the front counter of stores, including its countertop spinners, consumers can have closer proximity (touch and feel) to NJOY’s products versus tobacco products that by law (Master Settlement Agreement) must be relegated to the back counter.

 

One clear differentiating factor for NJOY versus such brands as Blu, Mistic (product of Ballantyne Brands), and Vuse, is that NJOY’s product packaging aims to make the product as close as possible to a traditional cigarette in terms of look, feel, and size. Craig says the reason for the product packaging strategy is that, while there will always be a market for someone that does not want to look like they’re smoking, he believes you need to make the bridge of familiarity between the very ingrained habit of smoking and choosing an alternative like an e-cig short enough so it’s easy to cross.  This is why NJOY has made its product as familiar as possible to smokers: every smoker carries a pack and lighter, so these form factors have also been integrated into the packaging as a bridge to familiarity and to improve the product’s overall experience. 

 

Another point of differentiation is NJOY’s conviction that the industry is trending towards disposables and away from rechargables. This goes against the discussions we’ve had with other e-cig companies such as Ballantyne Brands and a general tone from Big Tobacco, all of which are in support of the margin enhancing opportunities with the razor, razor-blade model of a rechargeable unit.

 

Craig comments that much of the e-cig share is determined by retail presence: LO’s Blu is in 50% more outlets than NJOY and he believes that while current consumer preference is based on availability, ultimately consumers will gravitate towards those with the best consumer experience.

 

 

Key Takeaways

  • UK and EU Parliamentary decision to not regulate e-cigs as medicinal products may have little impact on the FDA, given the differences across markets: estimated that menthol tobacco market in the EU is maybe 3% of total sales (tiny compared to ~ 30% in the U.S.) and adoption trends and sales are behind the U.S., ~ 2years
  • LO’s acquisition of SKYCIG (1. OCT 2013), while the first push by Big Tobacco internationally, there still remains a very large and fragmented market in the EU (and the slightly more established UK market)
  • Despite great strides in a very short period of time, next generation e-cigs will be/need to be even closer to traditional cigarettes in terms of feel and experience to maintain adoption. The relative health benefits remain an obvious advantage, but also the lack of smoke odor and social stigma, and increased convenience
  • MN remains the only state to tax e-cigs like traditional cigs. Three states more recently tried to pass taxes on e-cigs, all three of them failed – Utah, Oklahoma, and Hawaii
  • Any online or advertising bans would stand to benefit those manufacturers that already have widely penetrated retail outlets
  • Any push by Big Tobacco to sell their e-cigs at break-even for extended periods may push smaller players out of business

 

The following is a complete transcript of the Q&A from Craig Weiss:


Q:  Any guess how the FDA will treat online sales, flavors, and indoor vaping?  How would you guess deeming regulation from the FDA will impact NJOY and the industry?  Do you think the rulings from the UK and EU Parliaments on e-cigs will impact the FDA’s decision?


A:  On the first question there’s a lot of speculation on what the FDA will do. I don’t know that I have any more insight than anyone else does. My guess is that electronic cigarettes will continue to be available and it’s hard for me to see any scenario whereby the FDA sends 3-4 million people back to tobacco cigarettes and back to their death. I see good manufacturing practices requirements and ingredients disclosures, age verification requirements. As for the big ones, which would be online sales, flavors and advertising, my guess is that they’ll punt those further down the road until they gather more information on the impact that e-cigs are having on the population, and I know for a fact that the FDA is engaging on that research right now to do population based studies on the impact of e-cigs, and it will take some time to gather the data.

 

With respect to how things are shaping up internationally, I don’t know if [the UK and EU regulation] has such an impact on the U.S. It’s a different regulatory structure here. E-cigs cannot be regulated as medicinal products per a ruling in 2010 – so the real question is how the FDA will exercise its tobacco jurisdiction over the products (but not as medicinal products).  It’s clearly a struggle between the Center for Tobacco Products and the FDA because they can’t take cigarettes off the shelves, and I think they know based on the scientific data that e-cigs are better for a smoker than a cigarette. So they have to figure out how they can restrict a product while leaving unrestricted a cigarette which they know to be toxic.

 

So we’ll see how this shakes out. My guess is this is the beginning of a very long process. Even the publication of rules will follow a commentary period before they’re proposed rules, before they go to become final rules—there’s a very good chance there will be litigation, and then they’ll have to go through a more formal process once they have enough scientific data.

 

So I think you’re likely to see something in the next couple of months, certainly by the end of this year, with the FDA asserting jurisdiction and maybe laying down ground rules, but I think the longer process is going to play itself out over the course of the next several years.

 

 

Q:   On the international piece, we saw LO buy SKYCIG earlier this month, do you have any plans to move internationally?


A:  We have already moved internationally. We sell in the U.K. right now and are on the cusp of rolling out to market in Europe and around the rest of the world. IF you look at the LO acquisition, it doesn’t have a lot of market share – it is maybe the fourth brand there – and what they really acquired was the infrastructure. There is no Newport brand outside of the U.S., in fact there is hardly any menthol  market outside of the U.S., and so they spent $50 to $100MM (depending on the terms) to buy the infrastructure of 30 people associated with the business. I have been able to build out a fairly serious infrastructure for a lot less money and I think I’m poised to expand far more rapidly. But what you’re seeing is the first indication of how costly it would be for big tobacco to buy infrastructure because they can’t pull the distribution levers they can domestically and of course tobacco companies are geographically landlocked.  In the U.S. you have the big three tobacco companies that are more or less [just doing business] in the U.S.  And then you have BAT, Imperial (in Europe), JTI (in Asia) – there’s a lot of isolation among the big companies. You have PMI, which is big and global, but not particular dominant in one particular area, so I think there’s a great opportunity to be a big global player in the e-cig space which his obviously something that NJOY is attempting to achieve.

 

 

Q:  Can you discuss capital needs associated with growth? What growth trajectory can be maintained with internally generated cash flow? How do the different sales channels and geographies place burdens on the growth capital account?


A:   We’ve raised over $100MM, we’re well capitalized for growth.  Fortunately our product is selling, so that helps to generate a lot of revenue to help the brand grow, so we feel pretty good about our ability to continue to scale whenever we bring on new countries, distributers, and retailers, those relationships typically start with a purchase order, and a load-in, since the stores have to load-in inventory, so that requires a large infusion of capital every time you do that. That’s part of what explains the LO numbers– their growth has all been distribution, their same-store-sales are declining but they’ve been adding enough stores to offset that and show growth but they had three flat quarters followed by a slight uptick, but that again goes to the stores that they’re adding.

 

 

Q:  What have you learned about demographic trends and consumer behavior of e-cig users?  Any gender or age trends?  What’s the defining aspect for conversion to e-cigs versus traditional? 


A:   Demographically I don’t think the numbers are too dissimilar to what you see from the general smoking population.  E-cigs skew a bit more female than the general smoking population, just because women tend to be a little more health conscious than men.  Because e-cigs have traditionally been a bit more expensive than traditional it also skews a little more higher income, but I see that changing as the price comes down. Four years ago an electronic cigarette could cost $150, and it was a pretty terrible product, today we’re selling  an e-cig for $5.99 (based on a 5-pack selling for $29.99) for a product that is far better than what was available back then. It’s a little too early to read too much into the demographics, but it typically tends to follow the smoking population.

 

 

Q:   Can you talk about NJOY’s suppliers? Do you worry about supply chain disruptions and quality control?


A:   We have a pretty good network of very high suppliers, with built in redundancy in the system. We manufacture the liquid in the U.S. in GMP facilities that we have oversight over.  Another aspect of doing manufacturing properly in Asia is that you get two things that are hard to replicate in an automated U.S. facility: the ability to rapidly innovate and scale rapidly. And so those two things are reasons why Apple continues to manufacture in China. No one has more money than Apple or ability to build facilities in the U.S., so why haven’t they?  The reason is because those key assets, the ability to rapidly innovate and scale rapidly, you can only achieve through the manufacturing prowess that China has to offer. And so we’ve availed ourselves of that. That’s reflected in the rapid innovation cycle that you’ve seen from our products as opposed to those from our competitors which for more or less have been selling the same commoditized offerings for the last several years.

 

 

Q:  From a timeline perspective, where do you think you guys are at versus where you want to be, with that ultimate throat hit and satisfying experience that the consumer is accustomed to with traditional cigarettes?


A:   We have a ways to go – by this I don’t mean in terms of time as we’ve moved very quickly—but I mean in terms of the offering that’s currently in the market. No matter how you slice e-cig growth, the category is currently 1-2% of the entire tobacco category. So why are we only 1-2% of the tobacco category and I think the answer is the products aren’t good enough yet (as a massive generalization). They’ve made great progress, and are building inroads, with good momentum, but the products need to get better – the good news is they are starting to get better very rapidly. NJOY will continue to lead the way to continue these innovations. There are not many people out there that have devoted the time, energy and resources that we have from a chemistry and science perspective and hardware perspective to build a product that we think will ultimately replicate the smoking experience.  We feel that the products we’re rolling out in Q4 and early next year are a quantum leap closer to achieving the holy grail – I mean how much would you pay for French fries that don’t make you fat?  At the end of the day when you can deliver on something, or get somewhere that is close enough – as an example Diet Coke and Coke Zero as a category are bigger in the U.S. than Coca-Cola, so you don’t have to deliver 100% of the sugar, calories and the taste of Coca-Cola if you can offer them other things, which of course Coke Zero and Diet Coke do and which electronic cigarettes do, which is other significant benefits. And it’s not just the health concerns, you also have the odor which is a huge issue – smokers hate the smell of smoke, what it does to their hair and clothes. The cost is a big issue. As the cost come down relative to smoking and the societal pressures to be alleviated, as is the emerging scientic data with regards to health – as that data becomes more prominent smokers will start to realize more and more what the opportunity is for them when they make the switch.

 

 

Q:   What’s your sales mix of disposables versus rechargables and how do you see that evolving across the industry?


A:   NJOY is entirely disposable and I would say for the category it is moving almost entirely towards disposables, and I see that trend continuing.  I would say from a unit perspective, even Blu’s rechargeable business is declining and disposable are increasing, so the category is overwhelmingly disposable according to Nielsen today. Blu’s disposables accounted for 81% of Blu’s unit volume, according to the latest Nielsen.

 

Is there are rechargable customer, absolutely.  There is a value consumer willing to compromise on product experience, to go through the hassle of recharging, plugging things in and screwing things together – it’s like comparing to Soda Stream which is more cost effective than buying Coca-Cola, but I don’t think people believe that is going to be a mainstream experience in the U.S. (at least) to offset soda.  There are lots of things that are better value propositions.  Re-chargeable AA batteries are a better value proposition than buying AAs. But how many people do you know that are exclusively using rechargeable batteries versus disposables.  We don’t do it because it’s not convenient. So at the end of the day there are people willing to sacrifice convenience for value but that is a small segment of the population. I mean 85% of smokers buy by the pack, only 15% buy by the carton, although it’s greater value –while there are other factors at play, the vast majority of the cigarette market is the premium market, a very  small percentage discount market. I think roll your own is maybe the appropriate analog and it is about 1% of the market in the U.S.

 

 

Q:  How are states regulating e-cigs? Which states are taxing e-cigs like a tobacco product?  Is there any legislation we should be aware of?


A:  Only one state has succeeded in taxing e-cigs, it’s Minnesota. MN did that early on before there was really galvanized support for e-cigs among the consumer population. Three states more recently tried to pass taxes on e-cigs, also all three of them failed – Utah, Oklahoma, and Hawaii. And so in all three cases, when the taxes were proposed, literally hundreds, in some cases thousands, of people descended on those capital to protest. I don’t see taxation as the same type of threat that I think people assume it is.  Even in Italy, there some consideration of taxation and people went on a hunger strike. When is the last time you saw people go on a hunger strike, for say Coca-Cola.  You didn’t see this when there was a proposed ban in NYC – people are passionate about their e-cigs.

 

 

Q:  How important is the ability to market the product?  Worried if marketing gets banned, will it stunt your future growth?


A:  The marketing is very important, it is critical that we’re able to communicate that smokers have an alternative. We’ve made this position clear publically, we’ve made this position clear privately to the FDA.  I don’t want there to be advertising restrictions. I want to tell smokers that they have an alternative and I want them to know that that alternative is my product. But even in some scenario in which there are advertising restrictions, at least for NJOY, it would likely benefit us because no one else would be able to advertise and we’re already in the vast majority of locations where tobacco is sold in the U.S., in leadership positions at retail.

 

 

Q:   Both Altria (Mark ten) and Reynolds (Vuse) are likely to begin their own distribution rollout similar to Lorillard with Blu, for how long will the rapid industry sales growth be relatively profitless given the heavy investment phase?


A:  Vuse and MarkTen will presumably roll out nationally sometime in 2014 although it is a much more complicated effort for them than it is for LO. Not all tobacco companies are created equally.  LO has a gun to its head on menthol – if menthol goes away, their entire company goes away. So they have to diversify, they have to get behind e-cigs and push the heck out of it. Their customer base is not likely to move to e-cigs, which is mostly a menthol/Newport customer base, so they have the least risk among the tobacco companies to be pushing an e-cig.  It’s much more complicated for Altria and Reynolds who would be directly cannibalizing the sale of their current products in a way that Lorillard is not. I don’t think you’ll see as aggressive a roll-out form Altria and Reynolds as we saw from Lorillard but at some point they are going to roll out and they’re going to leverage their distribution networks and will get in a couple hundred thousand stores, because that’s what they do. At the end of the day, that’s going to bring new users and smokers into the category and I believe those people will migrate to the best product, which I think will be our product. But even if LO showed that they were operating the Blu business break even, that’s because they are spending so exorbitantly on marketing and it’s not clear to me that the business has to be run in that way. It depends on you want to focus on: growth, or profitability, how you want to growth the business and what your aims are. At the end of the day there is GM and there is net income, people have to make a decision what matters to them most for each company. And each investor may make different decisions. 

 

 

Matthew Hedrick

Associate


OCTOBER SURPRISE

Regional markets should rebound sharply from a horrible September.

 

  • Regional markets recorded the 2nd worst month of the year in September and ruined the quarter for the domestic gamers
  • As can be seen in the chart below, our model correctly predicted the downturn.  Now, we’re projecting that October will register only slightly negative YoY growth. The states will begin to release October revenues next week and that could be a positive catalyst for BYD, PNK, ISLE, and PENN.
  • Our focus is on BYD.  The company muffed its October commentary big time today and we think they may be low balling Q4 guidance.  We should catch a whiff of that with the release of State by State gaming revenues.

OCTOBER SURPRISE - 10 31 2013 4 04 33 PM


The Dollar Remains Key

Takeaway: It doesn't look like the U.S. is turning Venezuelan this week. Phew.

Trick or treat? TREND or TAIL?

 

The Dollar's long-term TAIL support line of $79.21 was recovered. That’s good. It means we won’t look like Venezuela this week. Phew.

 

But the TREND resistance remains overhead at 80.16. So, unless you’re a long-term holder of dollars, you want to wait and watch on this thing. Pimco's Bill Gross begging for higher taxes this morning? Yuck. The Dollar Devaluation and Bond Bull Lobby is coming on thick.

 

The Dollar Remains Key - drake1


Early Look

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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.

SBUX: FIRING ON ALL CYLINDERS

SBUX: FIRING ON ALL CYLINDERS


SBUX reported another all-star quarter in 4Q13 and appears to be firing on all cylinders heading into FY14.  A strong commodity tailwind, international growth, the beginning of a recovery in the EMEA segment, and expansion into new segments of the global food and beverage industry are all bullish factors moving forward.  The only slight negative stemming from what was, overall, a bullish conference call was management reigning in expectations for FY14, which, in our view, gives the company a better chance of surprising to the upside throughout the year. 

 

Last night, Starbucks reported global same-store sales growth of 7%, marking the 15th consecutive quarter above 5%.  Same-store sales in the Americas division grew 8% (including 5% traffic).  Total revenue growth of 13% produced a 28% increase in operating profit and a 30% increase in EPS.

 

Americas:

  • Revenues +11% y/y
  • SSS two-year comp declined 50 bps sequentially
  • Operating income +16%
  • Operating margin +100 bps to 21.8%
  • Food contributed ~200 bps to the comp

 

SBUX: FIRING ON ALL CYLINDERS - AMERICAS

 

 

EMEA:

  • Revenues +3%
  • SSS two-year comp decelerated 50 bps
  • Operating margin +1,170 bps to 9.3%
  • Indicated that an early turnaround may be underway

 

SBUX: FIRING ON ALL CYLINDERS - emea

 

 

CAP:

  • Revenues +29%
  • SSS two-year comp decelerated 150 bps
  • Operating income +46%
  • Operating margin +440 bps to 37.5%
  • Consumers are embracing the SBUX experience
  • Recent negative media attention appears to be a non-issue

 

SBUX: FIRING ON ALL CYLINDERS - CAP

 

 

Channel Development Segment:

  • Revenues +13%
  • Operating income +30%
  • Operating margin +450 bps to 35.6%
  • Exceeded aggressive growth plans for Evolution Fresh
  • Will continue to rollout new K-Cup flavors and varieties to the market in partnership with GMCR

 

Despite reporting a great 4Q13, the bears do have several legitimate concerns:

  • Sentiment is largely positive
  • Rich valuation
  • Ability to sustain such strong trends will be difficult
  • Elevated expectations could become an issue

 

While management did their best on the earnings call to reign in expectations for FY14, by guiding to full-year global comparable sales in the mid-single digit range, we suspect that the street is looking for more.  This guidance did appear to be fairly conservative but, as CEO Howard Schultz implied, it would be foolish to guide to high single-digit or double-digit comps.

 

All told, SBUX remains the best-run company that we follow and the long-term TAIL continues to seem unlimited.  The company’s geographical reach and size is highly impressive and management continues to find feasible, innovative ways to drive comp growth accretive to the whole SBUX system. 

 

 SBUX: FIRING ON ALL CYLINDERS - sbux snapp

 

 

 

Howard Penney

Managing Director

 


BYD 3Q REPORT CARD

In an effort to evaluate performance and as a follow up to our YouTube, we compare how the quarter measured up to previous management commentary and guidance

 

 

OVERALL

  • WORSE:  What can we say?  It was well understood that the top line was under pressure, especially in September, but BYD didn't deliver the margin improvement.  Q4 guidance was awful, a little too awful if you ask us.  Guidance looks low ball.

 

LV LOCALS 

  • WORSE:  While EBITDA improved 8% YoY, it was less than mgmt's previous expectations.  BYD reduced overall marketing spend by over $1MM.  They started the Penny Lane initiative and will roll out Penny Lane throughout Midwest & South - giving players more bonuses more often.  BYD will launch a new advertising and marketing campaign in the coming weeks. 
  • PREVIOUSLY:  We believe these improvements in our operating margins are sustainable and as revenues grow, these improvements will drive even greater EBITDA gains. And as the Las Vegas economy continues to move in the right direction, the future for our Las Vegas Locals business looks increasingly positive.
  • And with $6 billion in the development pipeline, more jobs are on the way. Home building activity is at its highest level in years and existing home prices are up approximately 30% in Las Vegas over the last year. As these trends continue, they should drive increased consumer confidence. As a result, we are optimistic in our outlook for our Locals business.

MIDWEST AND SOUTH

  • WORSE:  Casual players pulled back sharply in their spend in September.  Paradise & Blue Chip were materially negatively impacted by new competition.  These markets are also impacted by government and military spending.  Delta Downs was a bright spot.  Diamond Jo grew visitation and gained 2% in market share.  Kansas Star grew but so did expenses as they opened the permanant facility to accomodate revenue growth.
  • PREVIOUSLY:  While gaming supply has grown in many regional markets, general economic conditions remain sound and our confidence in our business throughout the Midwest and South is as strong as ever.

BORGATA

  • BETTER:  Had a huge summer session and saw a solid 4Q. Higher property taxes reduced EBITDA by $2.1MM YoY.  Mgmt believes there is further upside in Borgata. 
  • PREVIOUSLY:
    • Positive trends have continued into the third quarter, which is the height of the traditional busy summer season. Borgata is clearly moving in the right direction.
    • We're very comfortable with where we are at competitively, and the position Borgata holds and kind of the current EBITDA trajectory of that property. So, I think with respect to continued efficiencies of that property, like all of our businesses, that there are always opportunities to continue to refine these operations and find ways to operate more efficiently.

I-GAMING

  • SAME:  Borgata will be aggressive in attacking the NJ I-gaming market. They have allocated a significant budget to attract players.  
  • PREVIOUSLY
    • Borgata leads the Atlantic City market by a wide margin and we are confident it will capture more than its fair share of the New Jersey online gaming market as well.
    • Together, we plan to offer a full suite of games, including poker, slots, and table games under the Borgata and Party brands, including PartyPoker.

DOWNTOWN

  • WORSE:  Construction, disruption and road work contributed to a 14% decline in EBITDA.  BYD continues to improve yield on their Hawaiian charter service and believes in their long-term redevelopment story at Downtown.
  • PREVIOUSLY:  We're also seeing a significant uptick in visitor traffic, as Downtown's popularity grows. This is particularly noticeable at the Fremont, which benefited from continued growth in pedestrian traffic along the Fremont Street experience. Our Downtown business is clearly moving in the right direction and we expect positive trends to continue.

PROPERTY TAX CREDIT

  • SAME:  4Q guidance does not include any potential benefits from property tax credits.  NJ Tax Court ruled that Borgata overpaid ~$48.5MM in property taxes and $10MM in interest.  The appeal process is ongoing and BYD still have appeals pending for 2011 through 2013 so the ultimate amount to Borgata could be much greater.
  • (Media reported $40-50MM Borgata tax credit for 2009/2010) We recently concluded the trial phase of an appeal of our property tax assessments for 2010 and 2011 and a positive ruling could result in refunds and tax credits as well as lower assessments going forward. We expect the tax score to make its ruling by the end of the third quarter

VISITATION

  • WORSE:  Borgata visitation was strong while visitation in the Midwest and South segments declined.
  • PREVIOUSLY:  It's really kind of a market-by-market situation. I think when we heard from others about visitation, it's typically been outside of the state of Nevada, and we can certainly echo that. It's really more, what we would call frequency, the number of times during a month a person is coming in as opposed to straight out visitation, which is simply the number of people coming through the business, in a number of cases, our visitation is up but our frequency is down. And typically what happens as frequency declines, spend per visit goes up, not surprisingly as people have so many dollars for entertainment. In certain markets, and Nevada obviously was a bit of a better performer here, you've seen some more consistency year-over-year in frequency than maybe in other parts of the country.

PROMOTIONAL ENVIRONMENT

  • SAME:  The competitive environment is a market-to-market situation. 
  • PREVIOUSLY:  From a promotional environment standpoint, our marketing expense was flat year-over-year on and so, so we've been pretty consistent. I mean, how we choose to direct those dollars obviously changes, can change dramatically on a month-by-month, quarter-by-quarter basis, just to be as efficient as possible. And I guess my sense is that the promotional environment is similar to where we were last year at this time.

MGM 3Q REPORT CARD

In an effort to evaluate performance and as a follow up to our YouTube, we compare how the quarter measured up to previous management commentary and guidance

 

 

OVERALL:

  •  WORSE:  "The stock went up that much for this?"  MGM missed in every region and proved our contention that a meaningful Las Vegas recovery is still far off.

LV TRENDS

  • SLIGHTLY WORSE:  MGM slightly missed Street expectations for LV 3Q EBITDA.  LV 3Q REVPAR was +3% YoY, in-line with guidance.  Luxury/international segments did well. 
  • PREVIOUSLY:
    • LV 3Q REVPAR: +3%
    • The international is still strong. I mean I think our competitors saw that as well. We certainly did at our luxury properties.

MGM MACAU MASS SEGMENTS

  • SLIGHTLY WORSE:  Slot growth is slowing due to harder comps.  Mgmt will upgrade Supreme Land with 60-70 more premium slot machines in 2014. 
  • PREVIOUSLY:  
    • It seems to be pretty strong right across the mass segments.
    • We were able to drive main floor table game volume up 11% and revenue up 29% year-over-year with our continued focus on table yield management and strategically targeting the premium segment. Slothandle increased by 11% during the quarter and we remain the market leader for a single property in terms of slot gross gaming revenue.

CONVENTION TRENDS

  • MIXED:  4Q REVPAR flat guidance was than what Street expectations.  They are seeing Q1 2014 as almost a record for convention business with convention mix approaching 16% and convention room nights approaching record levels.  MGM is also optimistic on FY 2014 as currently 88% of the room nights are booked, higher than the typical 80% booked at this time of year.  However, mgmt was hesitant to give 2014 REVPAR guidance.
  • PREVIOUSLY:
    • Convention trends for 2013 remained in line with our expectations that we had coming into the year. Our second quarter convention mix increased slightly and our rate grew mid single-digits. We continue to see moderate growth in convention room nights going into the third quarter and based on that, along with some solid retail booking trends we're seeing, we expect REVPAR in the third quarter to be up 3%.
    • These strong sales trends are solid indicator for our business in 2014 and going forward, and our 2014 pace remains up double digits. Recall in March of 2014, we have CON/AGG big citywide convention back in Las Vegas; some150,000 attendees usually show up for that show.
    • [Convention 2014 ADR] It's pacing right now up about mid single-digits right now in terms of its pace.
    • But looking beyond that, we're seeing significant pace increases in each of the second, third and fourth quarter next year. In fact, we're up at least high single-digits each quarter next year when you're looking at the non-CON/AGG piece of the business. So we're pretty excited about the pace of 2014 and the traction that we continue to make in the important segment of our room booking pace on the convention and meeting side.
    • Convention room nights as a percentage of mix, Robin, we're pacing right now for 2013 at about 14.5% to kind of 15% is the range that we're pacing with rate being up over last year.

NEW YORK NEW YORK/ MONTO CARLO

  • SAME:  NY/NY and Monte Carlo remodeled sections will open in Spring 2014
  • PREVIOUSLY:  Next year, we'll see quite a bit of growth, we think, at New York-New York and Monte Carlo because they'll both benefit from the capital we're spending this year to significantly upgrade their food and beverage offerings and retail offerings and their street frontage.

CRYSTALS

  • BETTER:  Crystals continue to perform well.  3Q EBITDA was up 26%. They added 3 tenants in 3Q and another tenant in October.
  • PREVIOUSLY:
    • Crystals had its best quarter ever, up 21% year-over-year. And we continue to add tenants as our second Starbucks is now open and we recently executed two additional leases.
    • Crystals is doing better literally every month. 

ARIA

  • SLIGHTLY WORSE:  EBITDA was negatively impacted by $17MM due to low hold but missed even after adjusting hold.  Table drop increased by 12% YoY.
  • PREVIOUSLY:  
    • Our hotel business continues to improve due to greater brand awareness and increased convention room nights. This was our best REVPAR quarter ever at $194.
    • Aria had a little bit of a challenge for the quarter, partially because they held really well last year and they had some pretty strong play. But I would say the play is still there, maybe one or two customers that may came in last year, didn't come in this year for the quarter. But the solid base is still there. We're seeing a good volume of people coming in. And I think we're pretty happy with the international number.
    • Drop at Aria is up for the six months and so is the win in baccarat

PRINCE GEORGE'S COUNTY, MD

  • SAME:  Maryland decision will be made by year-end.
  • PREVIOUSLY:  We think those presentations will happen in either late September or October. They've indicated a final decision is still expected by year-end. We're extremely excited about this opportunity and feel like we have the winning proposal.

MASSACHUSETTS

  • SAME:  Licensing will be decided in November 2013.  Final decision is expected in April 2014.
  • PREVIOUSLY:  In Massachusetts, we had a big win with the special election in Springfield to approve the host city agreement. Now the company is finalizing the details of our RFP response, which is due by the end of this year. We think we can play a major role in the revitalization of that city in Western Mass and we look forward to delivering a very comprehensive proposal to the state. The state has indicated that that final decision is expected around April of next year.

CORPORATE EXPENSE/STOCK COMPENSATION

  • SAME:  3Q corp expense was $51MM while stock comp was $6MM.  For 4Q, MGM projects ~$50MM in corp expense and $7-8MM in stock comp.
  • PREVIOUSLY:  We expect corporate expense to be in a range of $45 million to $50 million per quarter for the remainder of the year. Our stock compensation is estimated to be approximately $6 million to $7 million in the third quarter and depreciation expense is estimated to be consistent with the second quarter.

MGM COTAI

  • SAME:  MGM Cotai construction is progressing really well.  Piling/sitework will be done by the end of the year.  Basement/tower construction is up next.  MGM continues to target an early 2016 opening with a budget of $2.6BN.
  • PREVIOUSLY:  We are now anticipating an early 2016 opening.

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