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India: Great For Investment Bankers!


India's equity market rebounded last night to make up over half of Tuesday's Sensex decline as the market continues to digest a slew of secondary offering announcements. In addition to corporate announcements, moves by the Oil Ministry to reduce retail fuel subsidies is seen by some as a government move to help refiner margins in advance of government divestitures in the energy sector.

For BSE listed firms, the massive run up in recent months provides an irresistible liquidity opportunity -particularly as spreads for corporate borrowing have remained stubbornly high despite loosening RBI policies.  How big an impact dilution can have on the equity market is a matter of debate, but with total BSE market capitalization roughly equal to the combined capitalization of Exxon and PetroChina and with major hurdles still facing foreign direct investment into the equity markets any share sale overhang will likely elicit a sharp response in the near term.  

Trade Data:

Trade data released by the ministry of commerce overnight continues to paint grim picture for external demand. Exports declined for the eight consecutive month on a year-over-year basis registering at -29.2%, a sequential improvement over last month's record decline (see chart below).  Declining imports drove the trade deficit to expand for the month to $5.2 Billion.

 India: Great For Investment Bankers! - INDIA exports

A lot of readers continue to ask us about our perceived negative bias to Indian equities , in spite of (or perhaps inspired by) the 50% YTD Sensex run.  If we were outright negative, we'd be short the IFN - we're not.  For the most part we agree with the bulls on the positive implications of the election results, but duration is critical in any discussion of our view on India. Strategically (that is, on a longer duration) we have a negative bias towards the Indian economy on a relative basis, and yesterday's export data cuts right to the heart of one of the key factors in our thesis.

Many strategists believe that India's relatively modest dependence on exports, at just 15% of GDP, is helping to contribute to a "virtuous cycle" of internally driven development.  We are not convinced. By largely "skipping" the industrial phase of development and moving directly towards a service and technology based economic base, we think that there is a major risk is that the 55% of the population that are rural farmers living in dire poverty will be unable to close the wage and education gap to become developed world level consumers. Educational and economic programs designed to eradicate poverty implemented by the government have thus far been profoundly unsuccessful in closing this gap. 

Ultimately, if the majority of the Indian population are unable to develop into domestic consumers for the growth industries that are the cornerstone of the rapid economic growth in recent years, we are confident that the economy there will grow at a slower rate than developing nations that have faster developing consumer bases.

One of the easy traps that we see our fellow investors falling into with respect to India is the "law of big numbers" -the notion that India has such a huge population that there has to be tremendous growth in the long run. We partially reject this notion and believe that the current course of Indian development -while increasing the size of the middle class in both size and relative affluence, will not elevate the vast majority to the same consumption growth level that we anticipate that Brazilian and Chinese populations will.

In short we see India's much vaunted lack of export dependency as a critical long term weakness rather than strength -and that puts us at odds with many other observers.

Having said all that, in the near term we actually agree with many of the most vocal bulls on India with respect to opportunities for individual companies and brands, and furthermore see the Singh administration's victory as a catalyst for new efficiency in development process overall.  We simply diverge from the hyper-bulls over the size of the macro hurdles which the Indian economy faces, and believe that there are many developing markets which present a more attractive long term growth opportunity.

Far from being contrarians, we are committed developing market investors, who just happen to see many economies that present more attractive long term opportunities than India.

For big banks and brokerages, the watershed moment of the Congress Party's victory opened the door for a wave of secondary offerings, government divestitures and IPOs that will no doubt generate a huge amount of fees. Perhaps if Research Edge had a syndicate desk I would be as bullish as my competitors.

Andrew Barber

MCD - Angus Rollout Is Sooner Than Expected

Bloomberg reported that MCD will be rolling out its new premium Angus burgers nationwide tomorrow, which is one month earlier than rumored. The company had previously stated that the rollout would come in 2010. The new line of burgers will be priced at about $4 relative to its Big Macs and Quarter Pounders at about $3 and its ever popular Dollar Menu. Going premium has not worked for MCD's competitors in this current environment, particularly CKR and BKC.

This premium priced offering may have made some sense about two years ago when MCD began developing the Angus burger in response to a request from franchisees in southern California for a product to compete with Carl's Jr.'s more premium products. Since then, Carl's Jr.'s same-store sales have slowed significantly and even turned negative in the last two quarters, which points to the difficulty of trying to sell premium priced products in today's environment. Consumers do not want to spend a lot of money when they go into a fast food restaurant. So, the obvious question is why now?

MCD knows how to launch a new product and this new Angus burger will inevitably receive a lot of attention within QSR and spur a lot of trial. MCD management knows this so there is some speculation that the company is rolling out its premium burger now, despite the economy, to offset sales weakness. For reference, I am sure it is no coincidence that the rollout was scheduled for July seeing that the company is lapping a 6.7% U.S. comparable sales number in July. It has long been my belief that MCD's premium coffee strategy will not provide the sales catalyst investors are expecting and the timing of this premium burger rollout only strengthens my argument that the early read on MCD's coffee strategy is not good.

To be clear, the Angus burger will provide a lift to MCD's numbers in the near-term as the company will be heavily promoting its introduction. And, as I said once before, it could also help the company's coffee sales as I would not be surprised to see a coupon for a free latte with the purchase of an Angus burger to boost McCafe sales or vice versa! This nationwide launch is a definite negative for CKR and Carl's Jr. The concept's premium menu focus was already hurting traffic, which has been negative for the better part of the last two years. MCD's presence in the premium segment of QSR will only increase CKR's pain.

MCD - Angus Rollout Is Sooner Than Expected - MCD US May SSS

Reflation morphing into Inflation...

Notwithstanding The New Reality that this morning's ISM report (June) was another sequential acceleration and the best print since August of 2008 (yes, before the narrative fallacy of the Great Depression that forced the politicized Fed to cut to "emergency" level interest rates), the prices paid component is turning into a moon-shot.

Prices paid - those are leading indicators for reported inflation and, of course, they are paid for in US Dollars (which are getting smoked). The rest of this picture is self explanatory - see the chart below and, remember, what matters most to our macro model is what happens on the margin.

The Bond market gets this. The Fed isn't allowed to, yet...


Keith R. McCullough
Chief Executive Officer

Reflation morphing into Inflation...  - a1

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Sales Relief to Close out 2Q?

The across-the-board snapback in sports apparel sales for the week endiing 6/28 is just what the Dr ordered, and starts off 3Q with a ray of hope.


Sales Relief to Close out 2Q? - Table


Sales Relief to Close out 2Q? - Sports Apparel   chart


Sales Relief to Close out 2Q? - ASP sports apparel chart


The chart below shows our forecast for slot sales into new and expanded casinos in North America.  As we've been saying for awhile, the picture isn't pretty.  Fortunately, replacement demand is poised to bounce off the bottom as casino operator balance sheets have improved dramatically in the past few months.  See our 05/15/09 post "IGT: MGM, CREDIT MARKETS, AND REPLACEMENT DEMAND".  Anecdotally, we've already heard that certain properties are accelerating replacements.

REPLACEMENT/NEW: A TALE OF TWO DEMANDS - domestic slot shipments 

Changes from our last new casino and expansion update are as follows:

  • 2009: ~33k up from 20k (early 2010 shipments moving to late 2009)
  • 2010: 14k down from 24k
  • 2011: 14k - does not include possible openings of Aqueduct ( up to 4,500 slots), a Lakes (LACO) casino in OK (1,200), and potential temporary facilities in MD and KS (permanent ones won't open before 2012)

The following table lists all of the new casinos and expansions opening through 2011:

REPLACEMENT/NEW: A TALE OF TWO DEMANDS - New and expanded casinos

Retail First Look: 7/1/09


This situation in Honduras is escalating to the point where it can't be ignored as it relates to impact on retail.  In addition to the direct situation in Honduras, it's also noteworthy that Nicaragua and El Salvador are closing border routes as a pressure tactic to return Zelaya to office. 

In other words, despite reports from Gildan that the political limbo in Honduras has not affected operations, we're beginning to think otherwise. While most state owned operations are removed from direct conflict in San Pedro Sula on the northern coast, the closing of border routes in El Salvador and Nicaragua have significant ramifications. Companies such as VF Corp. and Hanesbrands with production in nearby countries typically ship to Honduras for export to the U.S. - this disruption is forcing companies to think of alternative and costly fixes (i.e. air freight). While production in Honduras may not be impacted directly, sky rocketing geo-political risk in the region will inevitably affect the cost of future business. With both Gildan and Fruit of the Loom production highly concentrated in Honduras, further escalation of the current situation may be net positive for Hanesbrands as reflected in the 7% positive divergence over the past 3-days.

Here are yesterday's developments...

  • The United Nations General Assembly has approved a resolution calling for the reinstatement of ousted Honduran President Manuel Zelaya.
  • The US has supported the UN resolution
  • Spain has called on other EU countries to withdraw their ambassadors
  • World Bank president has "put a pause" on its lending to Honduras and is "working closely with the OAS and looking to the OAS to deal with its handling of the crisis under its democratic charter".

The possibility of swift economic sanctions, including a temporary suspension of CAFTA trade policy, cannot be dismissed.  The US government appears to be willing to follow the UN's lead, and the UN in turn is taking its cues from the OAS, which is currently under the sway of Venezuela, Cuba and other allies of the Zelaya administration. We simply do not believe that the current administration has the will to fight UN/OAS consensus on this matter.



Some Notable Call Outs

- Not only are international brands and retailers trying to grab cheap rents in the US, but they are also building large fan bases on Facebook.  Using the social networking tool to track the most popular brands/companies as measured by the number of fans, we discovered that international brands are well represented in the top 10. The list includes: 1) Adidas Originals, 2) Victoria's Secret, 3) Nike, 4) Converse, 5) Victoria's Secret PINK, 6) Zara, 7) PUMA, 8) H&M, 9) Adidas, and 10) Burberry.  As Facebook continues to grow across the globe, we suspect that this list will evolve even further.  Interestingly, Adi's "Originals" sub-brand ranks higher in popularity than Nike. While still early in exploiting social networking to drive consumer awareness and ultimately market share, it appears from this small sample that US based companies are lagging their international competition.

- The death of Michael Jackson remains top of mind and this has retailers scrambling to meet demand for the pop icon's albums. Reports suggest that Amazon.com has sold more Michael Jackson albums since his death than it did in the prior 11 years combined! Given the weakness in the packaged media category and dramatic reduction in floor space allocated to cd's over the past 5 years, we suspect this phenomenon will provide a much-needed, albeit temporary boost to those that still sell music.



Zach's overview of items you're unlikely to find in the general press.

- Sport Supply Group on the acquisition front - Sport Supply Group, Inc. has acquired certain assets from Gus Doerner Sports, Inc. of Evansville, IN. SSG acquired the rights to Doerner's Team Sports Division which caters to high school, college and out of school sports programs in southern Indiana. Last week, Sports Supply Sport acquired substantially all the assets of Webster's Team Sports of Pompano Beach, FL. This transaction affords SSG the ability to expand its coverage of an important state while leveraging the pre-existing infrastructure and support systems already in place in that region. <sportsonesource.com/news>

- Dick's Opens in old Joe's Store - Dick's Sporting Goods Inc. will open a store in a former Joe's Sports & Outdoor in Hillsboro, OR. The store will be the second for Dick's SG in Oregon. The Hillsboro location marks the first Joe's store to be refurbished for another company. <sportsonesource.com>  [McGough: Hillsboro is the core of where some key Nike executives reside. Something tells me that the Swoosh will be disproportionately represented at this store]

- Eddie Bauer auction set - Eddie Bauer Holdings Inc. won bankruptcy court approval to sell its assets at an auction next month. At a joint court hearing held simultaneously in Wilmington, Delaware, and Toronto, where the company's Canadian division is in bankruptcy, two judges approved Eddie Bauer's request to hold an auction for its assets on July 16. <sportsonesource.com/> [McGough: Given all the interest in this name pre-filing, I'm interested to see who really steps up to the plate. That said, go and ask anyone under the age of 25 if they know who Eddie Bower is....]

- Billabong selects a global sourcing company - Billabong has selected NGC's e-PLM(r) for Product Lifecycle Management and e-SPS(r) for Global Sourcing and Visibility. NGC's software will be implemented worldwide as a strategic PLM and global sourcing solution for Billabong across all of the company's regions and brands. Billabong selected NGC after a detailed and rigorous evaluation of the industry's leading PLM vendors. "We chose NGC based on the functionality and ease of use of their solutions, as well as NGC's deep understanding of the fashion and apparel industries," said Mike Savage, General Manager of Product Development, Billabong International Limited. <globenewswire.com/news>  [McGough: As capacity frees up again at the plant level (a major theme of ours for 4 months), you're going to see more of these offensive moves in investment in software, systems and partnerships.]

- Nike launching cross-trainers inspired by the originals - Twenty years after Nike entered the cross-training category with the original Air Trainer - made famous by Bo Jackson's classic "Bo Knows" commercials - the company is prepping for the next evolution with the July 1 debut of the Trainer 1. Designers went back and reexamined the original shoe for inspiration and reengineered the design to incorporate the company's latest technological innovations. High-top and low-top versions of the $90 shoe are expected to drop at sporting goods and athletic stores later this year, along with limited-edition versions of the shoe in a variety of colorways and material makeups. <wwd.com/footwear-news[McGough: This is the benefit of having over 30 years worth of success from which to draw upon. When a shoe company reaches into the closet as a starting point for new product, the incremental ROI is materially higher than starting from scratch]

- Amazon and Blue Nile cut off affiliates in more states over taxes - Blue Nile today joined Amazon in ending referrals from Rhode Island web affiliates because of legislation that would require collecting sales tax. Both retailers recently made similar moves in North Carolina and Amazon today cut off affiliates in Hawaii. <internetretailer.com>  [McGough: This issue is escalating, and worth spending some time on - which we'll be doing.]

- License deals in China - Conflicting reports are circulating in Europe and in China about Pierre Cardin license deals in China. Earlier this week, it was reported that the French designer was set to sell all his product licenses and the brand to partners in China. This has since been denied, but it has been suggested that the designer is close to finalizing 32 footwear deals with its existing partners Jiansheng Trading and Cardanro in a €200 million ($280 million) deal. This deal is said to include the Maxim's brand.<licensemag.com> [McGough: People talk about more us direct investment in China, but I think more of the opposite. This licensing deal is a sign of what is yet to come, with China buying/licensing foreign content]

- Large Indian retail company terminates a JV - Pantaloon Retail India Limited (PRIL) has decided to terminate its joint venture (JV) with Planet Retail Holdings. The company has also terminated its JV with Blue Foods, which runs restaurant chains such as Bombay Blue, Noodle Bar and Copper Chimney. "Planet Retail has two businesses, which is apparel and sports. We are running the sports business and it has become a wholly-owned subsidiary. That's why the JV with Planet Retail is being terminated," Kishore Biyani, chief executive officer, Future Group, told Financial Chronicle. PRIL had 49 per cent stake in Planet Retail Holdings. <indiaretailing.com>

- The FitFlop Phenomenon - Topping the list of most-searched sandals on AOL is FitFlop. The footwear phenom surpassed a slew of globally-recognized brands proving that these muscle-toning, pain-relieving, posture-improving shoes are on everyone's mind. The FitFlop has received the seal of acceptance from the American Podiatric Medical Association. The latest FitFlop collection for Summer 2009 is an Italian-designed range of varying styles including a slide for those who don't like anything between the toes. FitFlops' patent-pending microwobbleboard(TM) technology midsole increases leg muscle activity by approximately 10-12% with each step. They help improve posture, tone calves, thighs and gluteal muscles. FitFlops have also been reported to provide relief from plantar fasciitis, heel spurs, chronic back pain, sciatica, osteoarthritis, scoliosis and countless other conditions. FitFlops range in price from $49.99 to $59.99. <sev.prnewswire.com/retail[McGough: Not good for Crocs. Though the dark horse beneficiary might be Skechers.]

- M&S group beats the street with 2.9% sales growth - In the quarter U.K. sales were up 1.7% and international sales soared 15.9%. Sales growth driven by the store's 125th anniversary campaign, and the timing of the long Easter weekend. Clothing, a division that has been struggling in recent months, rose 1.4%, with improved performance across all areas of the business. <wwd.com/business-news>

- American Apparel's manufacturing facility full of illegal workers - Up to one-third of American Apparel Inc.'s manufacturing employees in Los Angeles may be working illegally, according to the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency. The ICE has notified the company that 1,800 of the 5,600 workers in American Apparel's Los Angeles production facilities do not have the proper paperwork to legally work in the U.S. Unless these employees resolve the discrepancies in their work records they will not be able to continue their employment with the company. While this would result in a significant reduction in the firm's production workforce, American Apparel said it did not believe the decrease would have a materially adverse impact on its financial results, due to its healthy inventory levels and manufacturing capacity. <wwd.com/business-news>  [McGough: Oh the irony that American Apparel has such a cult following with the 'anti-sweat shop' purists, and yet it overlooked such a basic component of making 'American Apparel in America.' That, of course, is having the goods made by people that are legally allowed to work here.]

- American Apparel expanding product range with bedding - American Apparel has been a mecca of hipster clothes since it debuted more than 10 years ago. But how much longer can people continue to wear deep V-neck shirts, gold lamé leggings, and hot pants? The company seems to know that the demand for these products could wane, so they've been adding new items to their stable lately. First it was butt-less tights, then scrunchies, and now the company is selling sheet sets.  <thefrisky.com>

Retail First Look: 7/1/09 - American Apparel Image

- Gap stepping up advertising with new agency - Just like it did this year with Old Navy, Gap Inc. appears ready to crank up the advertising on its Gap brand. Gap has been conducting an agency review and is likely to designate Crispin Porter + Bogusky for the Gap brand, according to sources. It's the same ad firm that does the campaign for the company's Old Navy division. There could be cost savings by utilizing the same agency for two divisions, though Gap is said to be pleased with Crispin Porter + Bogusky's quirky campaign for Old Navy, which features "SuperModelquins." Crispin Porter + Bogusky has a reputation for provocative campaigns. Meanwhile, management is gaining confidence in Gap brand products and wants to be more in front of consumers to reverse declining traffic and market share trends. In his first-quarter conference call, Gap Inc. chairman and chief executive officer Glenn Murphy acknowledged the need for increased marketing spend at Gap. The company plans a denim relaunch in August, to be followed by stronger marketing. <wwd.com/media-news> [McGough: I don't see how this can be a bad move. But Advertising only works if the product is there to back it up. The internal design talent is clearly lacking. But will new licensing deals (ie Stella McCartney and more to come) have the firepower to get this ball rolling?]

- Carrefour sets out a 3 year plan - Carrefour's chief executive, Lars Olofsson, on Tuesday disclosed a three-year plan to overhaul the world's second-largest retailer, achieve sizable savings and improve its image, which consumers have come to perceive as an expensive brand compared with competitors. By 2012, the company expects to achieve savings of $6.32 billion by improving the efficiency of its operations to generate higher margins, mainly in France, Italy, Spain and Belgium. The gains will consist of cutting operating costs and improving purchasing practices, and reducing inventory times by seven days. The transformation will require an investment of $702 million, and will entail one-off expenses. The company also underscored its resilience against the sharp economic downturn by disclosing first-half sales excluding gasoline should be slightly higher compared with the same period last year, and the increase in the second quarter of 2009 should be above that of the first quarter. Carrefour expects to focus on promoting its prices using advertising campaigns with clear price messages and price comparisons in a bid to attract more budget-conscious shoppers in the current downturn, according to the company. The retailer has already tested the strategy in Spain with success, logging market share gains and improving its image among consumers, Olofsson said. <wwd.com/media-news>

- H&M, Louis Vuitton and Wal-Mart at the top of survey - H&M, Louis Vuitton and Wal-Mart, respectively, are ranked as the world's most valuable apparel, luxury and retail brands this year, according to a study by consulting group Millward Brown Optimor. The group assessed global brands with the highest valuations in 17 sectors, from cars and coffee to technology and personal care. The study forecast the "intrinsic value" of 100 global brands by estimating their ability to "generate demand." Google was assessed as the number-one brand worldwide, worth $100.04 billion, followed by Microsoft, $76.25 billion; Coca-Cola, $67.63 billion; IBM, $66.62 billion, and McDonald's, $66.58 billion. H&M blew by Nike under Millward Brown's assessment to become the most valuable apparel brand, worth an estimated $12.06 billion, in a sector hit hard by the recession. The 62-year-old Swedish fast-fashion retailer was fueled by its offer of fashion, value and exclusive designer collections at affordable prices, such as a recent collection by Matthew Williamson and a collaboration with Jimmy Choo, which will launch a collection for women and men in about 200 H&M stores in November, said Pierre Dupreelle, a director at the brand consultant. Wal-Mart was the retail brand with the highest valuation, at $41.08 billion, a gain of 19 percent.  <wwd.com/business-news>

- New media/marketing company targets strictly college students - The estimated 13.6 million U.S. college students, ages 18 to 30, represent about $53 billion in discretionary spending, according to the 2008 Alloy Media + Marketing College Explorer study. Edhance, in beta test mode on this city's college populace, processes discounts back to students through affiliate programs with puma.com, target.com, Drugstore.com, skechers.com, avon.com, shopecko.com and Ice.com, a fine jewelry Web site. Discounts average about 10%. According to Edhance president Bjorn Larsen, the company has inked an agreement with a financial services company to automatically enroll more than 700,000 student credit card holders at back-to-school. Edhance has been quietly marketing itself through Twitter posts, but expects to go live in August. Every six months, users will be vetted to ensure they're still students. Bringing greater efficiency and transparency to student discounts make sense, said Larsen. "Here, you have a closed audience of tomorrow's shoppers," he said. "That's why retailers like Apple, J. Crew, The Limited and Club Monaco have given the deepest discounts to students for years." <wwd.com/media-news>

- Is the summer season a washout? - As consumers get ready to celebrate July Fourth, many merchants already have dismissed summer as a washout. Macy's flagship store has racks of summer tops, swimwear and dresses marked down as much as 50%, while luxury retailer Bergdorf Goodman is slashing prices on designer goods by as much as 70%. Meanwhile, piles of clothing as well as barbecue grills, tents and gardening tools are bypassing stores and heading straight to liquidators as merchants try to conserve their cash. Such deep discounting so early in the season is great news for bargain hunters, but it's a worrisome sign that shows a further weakening in retail sales since the end of May. Consumers' confidence in the economy, which had surged in April and May, is projected to be virtually unchanged for June when The Conference Board releases figures Tuesday. And major retailers will release June sales results next week. While unusually rainy weather across a broad swath of the country has dampened business, some analysts wonder whether shoppers are waking up to the harsh reality that the economy won't be getting any better soon - even as consumer spending makes up 70% of economic activity. That doesn't bode well for merchants, which need to get rid of summer inventory quickly to make room for fall goods that start to arrive next month. BMO Capital Markets analyst John Morris estimated that the volume and size of discounts for mall-based apparel retailers he tracks is 10% higher than last June even though inventory is down 20%. <google.com/hostednews>


RESEARCH EDGE PORTFOLIO: (Comments by Keith McCullough): ARO

06/30/2009 12:48 PM


Levine's love for retail does not find itself in this name. Peak margins for a company with peak momentum is always worth a shot (particularly when we can make sales here alongside the insiders). Short high. KM


SWHC: Michael Golden, President & CEO, sold 13,758shs ($70k), less than 5% of common holdings. Nicholas Leland, VP of Sales, sold 6,772shs ($35k) less than 5% of common holdings. Ann Makkiya, Corporate Counsel & Sec., sold 7,833shs ($40k) approximately 30% of common holdings. Ken Chandler, VP Operations, sold 3,598shs ($18k) less than 10% of common holdings.

DSW: Doug Probst, SVP, CFO & Treasurer, sold 4,154shs ($40k) after converting 13,000shs of restricted stock units to common shares. Deborah Ferree, Vice Chairman & Chief Merch. Officer, sold 9,010shs ($86k) after converting 28,200shs of restricted stock units to common shares. Kevin Lonergan, EVP & COO, sold 3,195shs ($31k) after converting 10,000shs of restricted stock units to common shares.

DECK: Peter Worley, President of Teva, sold 1,500shs ($106k) or roughly 5% of common holdings as part of 10b5-1 plan.



 Retail First Look: 7/1/09 - sector view


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