20 JULY 2009


What are the stocks discounting from earnings season?  Interestingly enough, they appear to be discounting that current earnings expectations are correct. It’s odd that we approach an earnings season and the earnings revision factor and stock performance are so closely in synch. That begs the question as to whether we will be sitting here in another month saying “gee, this earnings season was exactly in line with where every Tom, Dick and Harry thought it would be.”  Something tells me that the answer here is an overwhelming ‘No.’ We’re officially entering the period where there will be meaningful bifurcations by company, and this will accelerate throughout the remainder of the year. It’s a stock-pickers game again, folks. This is where you get paid to know your companies, be meaningfully different than consensus (when appropriate), and most importantly, be right. We’ll be out with written comments on many of these in advance of earnings. Premium subscribers…you know where to reach me to discuss live.




Some Notable Call Outs

- It looks like VF Corp will not announce that it won Eddie Bauer assets with its earnings release tonight. Golden Gate capital has emerged the winner at $286mm. Ironically, this is the same exact size bid it made 2-years ago, but was rejected by a judge. It looks like the economy has changed the rules of engagement. Yes, that seems low on a base of $1bn in revenue. But this is about 7x EBITDA on a grossly mismanaged asset whose relevance is in question. Should the brand exist? Probably. With more than $500mm in revs? Not so sure…

-CIT is getting all the press, but Steve Madden (SHOO) has dumped GMAC as its factor. That’s a shocker to me. Looks like SHOO is shifting away from factoring en masse and more towards utilizing its stellar balance sheet to sidestep and perceived ‘factor’ risk. You’ll see more of this from many mid-size companies that can afford to do so.

- In an unusual move within the Nike, Inc portfolio, Dwyane Wade switched from Converse to Brand Jordan. The move did not surprise me as much as the accompanying statement… "I didn't want to be in the Converse brand anymore because it seemed like they didn't know what to do with me." Could this be a sign of Converse reallocating capital from the performance business over to the classic segment in which it dominates? As evidenced by the deal with Target for expansion of One Star, I’m inclined to say yes. Don’t get me wrong, it’s tough to fault Converse for almost anything. People thought that Nike was foolish for buying the company 2 years after it otherwise could have scooped it up out of bankruptcy at half the price. But Nike is not good at fixing things. They’d rather pay more and not have to fix anything. The result? A near triple-digit return on its original investment.  Nonetheless, let’s keep an eye on clearer definition between Converse and other Nike, Inc brands.

- As retailers and brands work to find the best use of social media, we are seeing companies actually reach out to their customers in new ways. It was reported on Friday, that privately held fast fashion retailer, Forever 21, asked its Twitter followers if they would be interested in a Forever 21 magazine. The questions even dug deeper asking what features and content these loyal customers would like to see in the “hypothetical” publication. Expect to see much more of this outreach as it presents a larger, cheaper, and potentially more targeted way for companies to reach their core constituents.

- Late last week the legal battle between Ebay and Tiffany re-emerged. In an effort to appeal a ruling from last year that favored Ebay, Tiffany presented its arguments claiming that Ebay should enforce more vigorous counterfeit controls. The judge ruled last year that Tiffany should be responsible for protecting its own trademarks. The appeals case was presented before a packed court house and is being watched closely. If the original ruling were to be overturned, it would be viewed as a monumental change in the balance of responsibility for fighting counterfeiting and huge victory for the trademark holders which historically have spent all of their own capital on countering the sale of fake products. 



- The controlling shareholders of Hong Kong-based sourcing giant Li & Fung are branching off into India's modern retail market - Fung Capital, controlled by Li & Fung’s controlling shareholders Victor and William Fung, said it would invest $30 million in Future Logistic Solutions Limited, which specializes in supplying fashion and other products to 1,100 retail doors. In a statement, they described the move as “unrelated to any of the Li & Fung Group companies.”Future Logistics, part of Future Group, operates 30 supply chains in fashion, food, home products and general merchandise. It also has joint-venture partnerships with stationery retailer Staples and French fashion chain Celio. Future Group is best known for Pantaloon Retail, one of India’s largest operators. India’s logistics market is valued at about $100 billion. <>

- India has no intention of allowing foreign direct investment in retail - India has no plans to allow foreign direct investment in multi-brand retail trade, the country's junior commerce and industry minister said Monday. Under current policy, foreign direct investment is not permitted in retail trade except in single-brand product retailing where foreign investment up to 51% is allowed. "Government fully recognizes the need to ensure that small retailers are not adversely affected by the growing organized retail and that there is no adverse effect on employment," Mr. Scindia said. <>

- Retailers report increased sales, conversions and return on ad spend - Online marketing company Channel Intelligence says its jewelry, apparel and sporting goods retail clients increased their return on ad spend in Q2 compared to Q1. <>

- RVS buys Ellen Tracy brand from Brand Matter LLC - Brand Matter LLC has sold the operational part of the Ellen Tracy business to RVC Enterprises and licensed RVC for use of the brand for women’s sportswear in both the better and bridge categories. Mark Mendelson, president and chief executive officer of Ellen Tracy, will become president of the Ellen Tracy division of RVC. The operations will remain in Manhattan, where RVC is located. Market sources said there have been discussions for an Ellen Tracy line in the better category at Macy’s. But Brand Matter president Rick Platt said Ellen Tracy’s management has had conversations with a variety of retailers. <>

- Geox North America plans - Six months after taking the helm at Geox North America, Gary Champion is working to invigorate the brand with fresh styling, new marketing and an aggressive retail push. The former Clarks executive, who joined the Italy-based label in February, told Footwear News he aims to “introduce the U.S. customer to the Geox brand.” The market has been a challenge for the company since its debut here five years ago — of Geox’s $1.2 billion in annual sales, North America accounts for less than 5%. The COO’s first move has been to strengthen the product. For spring ’10, the brand initiated its first collection made specifically for North America. It also moved away from traditional Euro-comfort styling to infuse more fashion into the line. “We did three different heights of wedge heels, with three to four patterns on each  height,” Champion said. Price points will remain unchanged, in the $120-to-150 range, and Champion said he sees Tory Burch, Cole Haan and Sofft as the brand’s main competitors. To support the product overhaul, the North American team is strengthening product merchandising, starting in its own stores. (It has 30 to 35 in the U.S., with two dozen more slated to open in North America this year.) Champion said Geox will adjust the way product is displayed, in addition to implementing lifestyle messaging.  <>

- U.S. retailers may see spending drop in the back-to-school shopping season - 32% of U.S. consumers said they are saving more, up 10% from a year earlier, according to a survey being released today by Deloitte LLP. 64% said they would spend less on back-to-school items, compared with 71% last year. 22%  said they would spend less because of a job loss in the household, Deloitte said in an e-mailed statement. Deloitte counts the back-to-school shopping period as running from the July 4 weekend to Labor Day in September. 65% said they will only buy what the family needs, according to the survey. That means spending less on clothes and shoes. Another 74% said that they will buy more of their items on sale.  Consumers plan to seek out stores offering value. 90% of those surveyed said they will shop at discount department stores and 40% at dollar stores. Retailers need to be creative in promoting loyalty programs and offering coupons, Janiak said. More than three-quarters of shoppers will do the bulk of their shopping in August, she said. “Although retailers may not see as many wallets snapping shut as they did in late 2008, consumers still plan to stretch their dollars, telling us that their shopping remains constrained,” Janiak said in the statement. “Retailers should focus on delivering the best incentives and in-store experiences to get the most out of the back-to-school season.” <>

- Philippines' Richest Man Henry Sy Plans to Expand Retail Empire in China - Billionaire Henry Sy, whose retail empire has made him the richest man in the Philippines, may build as many as three malls a year in China to expand in the first major economy to rebound from the global recession. <>

- Urban Outfitters Would Consider Lending to Its Vendors if CIT Collapses - Urban Outfitters Inc., the clothing and housewares retailer, may consider providing short-term financing to some of its vendors should CIT Group Inc. collapse. <>

- As consumer confidence  continues to hit all-time lows, more marketers are getting into the insurance business - Last week, for instance, Hewlett-Packard began offering a “printing payback guarantee” which promises consumers a check if its printing solutions don’t deliver the recommended cost savings in a year. Earlier this month, Sears launched its “Buyer Protection Program,” which lets buyers keep an appliance purchased for more than $399 with a Sears card if the consumer loses his or her job. “Get a new appliance. Get peace of mind,” the program’s landing page proclaims, adding, “The Sears Blue Appliance Crew has got your back.” Kevin Brown, CMO for Sears’ home appliances division, said the incentive was necessary to get consumers to buy. “It really came from listening to our customers who have been telling us that…they’re worrying about their jobs and the economy,” Brown said, noting that consumers are “deferring much needed appliances and bigger ticket purchases.” Sears and HP aren’t the first to try to address consumers’ sagging confidence. Brands ranging from Virgin Mobile to men’s clothing retailer Jos. A. Bank have been running similar offers in recent months. The catalyst appears to be Hyundai, which trumpeted the idea the loudest with its Super Bowl “Assurance” spot, which outlined a program in which the automaker offered to buy back consumers’ cars should they lose their jobs within a year. Addressing consumers’ concerns about their jobs is an unusual marketing tack. Jack Trout, president of Trout & Partners, said he has never seen anyone making such offers before in previous recessions. “It just shows you how tough it is out there,” he said. “It shows you how people’s minds have changed.” Yet programs essentially telling consumers, “We’ve got your back,” have emerged in large numbers. <>

- London retail sales boosted by good weather- Clothing and footwear sales also benefited from discounting and Sales, according to BRC/KPMG’s London Retail Sales Monitor. The sales increase bucked the overall trend in the UK which saw an increase of 1.4% in June. The figures also showed that footfall in central London in June was up on last year. The BRC added that the sterling’s weakness against the euro had continued to attract international visitors to the capital, especially from Western Europe. However, it added that tourists were more cautious with their spending. BRC director general Stephen Robertson said: “Sunshine and sales helped boost London retail sales. Footfall in the capital was well up on a year ago, as shoppers sought out summer clothes, sandals and other goods.” “The pound’s weakness against the euro continued to attract shoppers from western Europe. And sales in the capital were also helped by Middle Eastern visitors. Although individual tourists have become more cautious, there are more of them which produced sales gains.” For the three months from April to June, like-for-like retail sales in London rose 3.9%. <>

- The European managing director of Crocs has spoken out against negative reports - US newspaper The Washington Post wrote an article last week suggesting that the brightly coloured footwear phenomena may have reached its maturity in the market place and could be on its last legs. Other newspapers suggested that the iconic footwear brand, which launched just seven years ago, was close to bankruptcy, claiming that because the shoes hardly ever wore out there was no need for repeat purchases by customers. In response to the article, managing director of Crocs Europe, Robin Akeroyd issued a statement which said he was “extremely confident” in the future of the company. He added: “Crocs is here to stay and has continually invested in product development which has generated constant demand. <>

- One Star, a new fall apparel collection by Converse, will be available exclusively at Target stores this September - The all-American sportswear line will include men's and women's apparel and accessories, including denim, graphic tees, plaid tops, zip-ups, dresses, outerwear, fringed scarves and hobo bags. Footwear also will roll out for men, women and children. Converse's One Star for Target debuted in February 2008. <>

- Retail stocks see new calculus on investors' hopes - Frugal shoppers are still fixated on discounters, not their upscale fashion and home furnishings competitors. Investors, however, are no longer so certain. Mall-based purveyors like J.C. Penney and Macy's Inc. are now back on the hot list of investors, who have pushed prices up in recent months as they turn to the beaten-down shares in the belief they don't have much farther to fall and could be big winners in a rebound. Still, shares of many of these mall-based merchants are still far below the levels they traded at since the recession started in late 2007. And analysts say their honeymoon may soon be over as investors grow impatient with the persistent sales slump and profit declines. "Retailers have to show investors the money," said Ken Perkins, president of retail consulting firm Retail Metrics LLC. "At some point, they have to show (profit) growth." Perkins estimated that the retail industry is expected to record an earnings decline of 11.6 percent for the second quarter compared with a year ago, marking the ninth consecutive quarter of earnings declines. Excluding Wal-Mart Stores Inc., that decrease would be almost 18 percent. While the earnings declines have moderated in recent quarters, investors are concerned about the financial health of retailers and are hoping for some signs of a turnaround this back-to-school season. <>

- Footwear brands expanding scope into accessories - Having options is a mantra that footwear brands, from Steve Madden to Salvatore Ferragamo, are embracing as they branch further into categories that don’t have anything to do with feet. Even as an unstable economy rocked the retail market this past year, Steve Madden developed a line of bedding targeted to college-age girls, and Ferragamo expanded its fragrance collection to include home offerings such as candles and room spray. For spring ’10, Shane and Shawn Ward are tackling timepieces, while Tory Burch continues to build her lifestyle empire, with eyewear for fall. And designers Elizabeth Brady and Matt Bernson have spun out into handbags and jewelry, respectively. “Brands are trying to find an opportunity to sustain their volume and keep the cachet of their brand alive,” said Marshal Cohen, chief industry analyst at The NPD Group. “But stretching out into other categories doesn’t always mean a home run.” While the risks include diluting the brand message and tainting relationships with retailers that expect a focused story, Cohen said, product expansion could boost sales, particularly among consumers already buying into the brand. “That’s where most of the growth will come from,” he said. “You’ve already convinced them you are the brand for them.” <>

- Outdoor companies focusing a bit more on the female consumer style - Whitney Conner said she first knew something needed to change during a visit to the Patagonia campus. Conner, the brand manager for Patagonia footwear, noticed that none of the female staffers at Patagonia’s Ventura, Calif., headquarters were wearing the brand’s more outdoorsy casual footwear. To get them and other women excited about its shoe collection, the brand this season will debut its new Elegance casual line, featuring more dressed-up, fashion-conscious silhouettes. And Patagonia isn’t the only one. Many leading outdoor firms are taking another look at their women’s casuals, aligning them more with current trends and giving the traditionally rugged styles a more feminine, polished look. Brand executives said the new direction better suits their female consumers’ need for style and functionality — and updated styles and colors give them a reason to buy. Portland, Ore.-based Keen’s ongoing push toenhance its feminine styling has ramped up this season. For Patagonia, the wakeup call led to a new direction: making the footwear collection better sync up with the dresses being shown in the apparel line. “When we looked at trending things, it became clear it was time to step away from the Outdoor Group and get into a more feminine, sophisticated look that matched the Patagonia dress line,” Conner said. <>

- Outdoor Trend: Bright Colored Shoes - Runners taking to the trails for spring will be doing everything but blending into the scenery. Bright citrus shades of lemon-yellow and lime-green are juicing up performance trail runners.




ROST: Gary Cribb, Executive VP & COO, sold 90,057shs ($4.1mm) after exercising the right to buy 90,057shs less than 20% of common holdings.

ROST: Lisa Panattoni, Executive VP of Merchandising, sold 40,000shs ($1.7mm) after exercising the right to buy 40,000shs less than 20% of common holdings.

ROST: Barbara Rentler, Executive VP of Merchandising, sold 58,557shs ($2.5mm) after exercising the right to buy 58,557shs less than 20% of common holdings.

RBI: Williams Lockhart, Director, purchased 2,304shs ($20k) increasing common holdings by ~100%.

TJK: Ernie Herrman, SEVP & Group President, sold 20,000shs ($68k) after exercising the right to buy 20,000shs representing less than 20% of common holdings.






Missing The Cut

"I just made mistakes... And obviously you can't make mistakes and expect to not only make the cut but also try and win a championship."
-Tiger Woods

After shooting a second 2nd 74 and Tiger missing the cut at this weekend's British Open, one of the more prescient thinkers in our subscriber base pointed out that quote to me. His point was that this is how the leaders of the US Financial system should behave. Holding themselves accountable. Looking in the mirror, calling it like it is.

Instead, what you're going to see this morning is more of the same. Woods will be back at the practice range, and Wall Street's finest group-thinkers will be out in full force talking about the economic "recovery" that they completely missed. Sadly, unlike Tiger - they'll behave as if they missed nothing at all.

Who missed this REFLATION trade? YouTube them and you tell me. Rewind the tape to 5 months ago and show me which one of these economic savants weren't scaring the hell out of the American public ranting about Great Depressions. AFTER seeing the SP500 rip higher for another +7% weekly move, are they bullish? You bet your Madoff they are - AFTER the fact. Washington and Wall Street job security depends on revisionist history.

Asia continues to teach America a lesson in high octane, unlevered, growth. Last night, Japan was closed but the rest of Asia roared higher for another big up day. The world's new economic leader, China, closed up yet another +2.4%, taking her 2009 score to +79.5% - that's another new YTD high. On the heels of Chinese strength, stocks on the Hang Seng tacked on another +3.7% move. Hong Kong equities are up +12.5% in the last 5 trading days and have now piled on a +35.6% YTD gain!

The New Reality remains: China's 21st century domestic consumption growth is reminiscent of that little train that could in the early part of the 20th century, the United States of America. China is now The Client. It's time for America's institutional investors to be "long of" what China needs versus what the US government wants them to need. Copper and oil prices were up +10% and 8%, respectively, last week - outperforming US Bonds, big time.

China doesn't need any more US Treasuries. Get your 200-day Moving Monkey to pull up a chart of the yield on 10-year US Treasury yields. Yes, at 3.7% this morning it is breaking out across all 3 of my durations (TAIL, TREND, and TRADE). Yes, Ben Bernanke is going to be chasing the long end of the marked-to-market curve. Yes, that change in US Federal Reserve policy rhetoric is as imminent as a monkey making money on the long side of the REFLATION trade right now.
Imminent returns? Oh yes, fellow commoners - if we Burn our Buck like this, everything priced in those bucks will continue to REFLATE. Never mind these silly details like Bankers, Debtors, and Politicians getting paid. You American commoners didn't make the Wall Street Club's cut! After missing the cut, the US government will be issuing you a zero rate of return on your savings account, and some Q4 inflation just in time for Christmas.

This morning the Buck is Burning, again, trading down another -0.56% at $78.87 on the US Dollar Index. After last week's -1.1% dollar decline, the negative price momentum associated with a completely politicized monetary policy in America continues. Going back to when Nixon abandoned the gold standard (1971), the US Dollar has only sustainably violated the $80 level twice. No, don't remind those Washington professors of economics when the last time was - that too, would be professionally embarrassing.

There is no embarrassment in admitting when you are wrong. Every mistake I make is up with a real-time quote on the Research Edge portal. Not learning from your mistakes is what is embarrassing - and unfortunately, Greenspan's ghost still remains in this country's leadership closet.

Tomorrow, Ben Bernanke will have one more opportunity to establish some credibility in America's currency. I am fairly certain however that his Humphrey Hawkins testimony will not be focused on how alarmist the US government's rhetoric had to be in order to get interest rates to an "emergency level" of ZERO.

The global macro market of countries, currencies, and commodities are currently betting that Bernanke maintains that the US outlook didn't miss the cut. Marked-to-market odds currently have the politicization of the short end of the US yield curve remaining intact. That's why the US yield curve is very close to being as steep as it has EVER been.

My intermediate term TREND support for the SP500 remains 871. My long term TAIL of resistance remains 954. The best thing I can tell you right here and now is stay with our proactive plan in managing risk around that range.

What you are hearing from Wall Street's consensus forecasters will continue to be completely backward looking. After a +40% move in the SP500, the House of almighty Goldman is raising their SP500 target this morning. Thanks for the Early Look guys - what would this country do without your stewardship.

Best of luck out there this week,


CAF - Morgan Stanley China Fund
- A closed-end fund providing exposure to the Shanghai A share market, we use CAF tactically to ride the wave of returning confidence among domestic Chinese investors fed by the stimulus package. To date the Chinese have shown leadership and a proactive response to the global recession, and now their number one priority is to offset contracting external demand with domestic growth.

CYB - WisdomTree Dreyfus Chinese Yuan - The Yuan is a managed floating currency that trades inside a 0.5% band around the official PBOC mark versus a FX basket. Not quite pegged, not truly floating; the speculative interest in the Yuan/USD forward market has increased dramatically in recent years. We trade the ETN CYB to take exposure to this managed currency in a managed economy hoping to manage our risk as the stimulus led recovery in China dominates global trade.

COW - iPath Livestock - This ETN tracks an index comprised of two thirds Live Cattle futures, one third Lean Hogs futures. We initially began looking at these commodities because of recession inspired capacity reductions combined with seasonal inflections. A series of macro factors including the swine flu scare, a major dairy cattle cull in response to collapsing milk prices and the collapse of the Argentine agricultural complex due to misguided policy provided us with additional supporting fundamental data points for the quantitative set up in price action.  

TIP- iShares TIPS - The iShares etf, TIP, which is 90% invested in the inflation protected sector of the US Treasury Market currently offers a compelling yield on TTM basis of 5.89%. We believe that future inflation expectations are currently mispriced and that TIPS are a compelling way to own yield on an inflation protected basis, especially in the context of our re-flation thesis.

XLV- SPDR Healthcare - We re-initiated our long position in healthcare on 6/29.  Our healthcare sector head, Tom Tobin, wants to fade the public plan, and he's been right on this one all year.

GLD - SPDR Gold - Buying back the GLD that we sold higher earlier in June on 6/30. In an equity market that is losing its bullish momentum, we expect the masses to rotate back to Gold.  We also think the glittery metal will benefit in the intermediate term as inflation concerns accelerate into Q4.

XLI - SPDR Industrials - We don't want to be long financial leverage, which is baked into Industrials.

EWI - iShares Italy - Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi has made headlines for his private escapades, and not for his leadership in turning around the struggling economy. Like its European peers, Italian unemployment is on the rise and despite improved confidence indices, industrial production is depressed and there are faint signs, at best, that the consumer is spending. From a quantitative set-up, the Italian ETF holds a substantial amount of Financials (43.10%), leverage we don't want to be long of.

DIA  - Diamonds Trust- We shorted the financial geared Dow on 7/10, which is breaking down across durations.

EWJ - iShares Japan -We're short the Japanese equity market via EWJ on 5/20. We view Japan as something of a Ponzi Economy -with a population maintaining very high savings rate whose nest eggs allow the government to borrow at ultra low interest levels in order to execute stimulus programs designed to encourage people to save less. This cycle of internal public debt accumulation (now hovering at close to 200% of GDP) is anchored to a vicious demographic curve that leaves the Japanese economy in the long-term position of a man treading water with a bowling ball in his hands.

XLY - SPDR Consumer Discretionary
- We shorted XLY on 7/9 on a rip as our team has turned negative on consumer.  

XLP - SPDR Consumer Staples - We shorted XLP on the bounce on 6/17.   Added to the position on 7/1, as our stance on the consumer is no longer bullish like it was in Q2, when gas prices and mortgage rates were dramatically lower.

SHY - iShares 1-3 Year Treasury Bonds - If you pull up a three year chart of 2-Year Treasuries you'll see the massive macro Trend of interest rates starting to move in the opposite direction. We call this chart the "Queen Mary" and its new-found positive slope means that America's cost of capital will start to go up, implying that access to capital will tighten. Yields are going to continue to make higher-highs and higher lows until consensus gets realistic


The economic environment is destroying real value in MAR’s timeshare business that is not being captured in adjusted earnings

Before 2008, there was no need for MAR to over-collateralize their timeshare note sales.  MAR was forced to over-collateralize its last two deals (one in 2008 and in March of this year) by 18% and 28%, respectively.  So what exactly did they write off this quarter since they retained no interests in the older deal?

When MAR books a gain on a note sale, the gain is equal to the NPV of the interest the company collects (~13%) and the interest on the notes (~7.5%).  If there is a “trigger event” caused by elevated defaults, MAR doesn’t get that “excess” cash flow and has to write down the value of the residual on their balance sheet as a result of having to use a higher discount rate.  Once a trigger event occurs, this accelerates payment to the senior pieces of the debt structure and MAR no longer gets paid any interest on its “residual”.

In Q1 the company didn’t actually hit the triggers, but were very close so they increased the discount rate used in the NPV to value the excess stream up to 25%.  In Q2 they hit the triggers, wrote down the residual and took the cash flow hit.  Once the hit was taken, MAR was able to decrease the discount rate to 18% because the risk was already reflected across the portfolio. MAR also made the assumption that the triggers cure in 6 months, since the few months during which they experienced heighted delinquencies will roll out (test is on a 3 month rolling basis) if delinquencies stay at currently observed rates of around 10%.

Of course, now that MAR retains the actual over-collateralized pieces, they just take a direct hit when defaults occur, but also reap the benefit of defaults that are lower than projected.  Risk levels are enhanced.  Year to date, MAR has taken $25 million in residual write-offs and $43 million in charges related to loan loss reserves.  This is real value being lost here that cannot simply be discarded as irrelevant, one-time charges. 

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Citing, “a person with knowledge in the matter”, released a story stating that LVS plans to file an IPO of shares in its Macau casinos with Hong Kong regulators early next month to raise up to $4BN.  The gaming company is also seeking amendments to its Macau bank loan, including covenant relief (as the maximum permitted leverage steps down in 3Q09) and permission to issue as much as $US1.5 billion in new debt according to an unidentified source.

LVS is seeking to raise capital to restart work on its US$12 billion projects on the Cotai strip.  LVS hired Goldman Sachs to help it buy back as much as US$800 million of bank loans via modified Dutch auctions as permitted by its last credit amendment which could allow LVS to get its total leverage beneath the covenant step down in 3Q09.  LVS President Michael Leven said on July 8th that the company could raise at least US$2 billion selling a minority stake in its Macau business in Hong Kong.



Macau’s Tourist Price Index for the second quarter of 2009 rose by 1.77% year-over-year, according to the city’s Statistics and Census Service.

The indices of Restaurants service and food, Alcoholic drinks and tobacco increased notably by 6.29% and 6.1% respectively.  Accommodation saw a 4.75% decrease year-over-year.  On a trailing four quarters basis, the TPI for the period ending 2Q09 increased by 5.33%, with significant increases of the indices of Clothing and footwear (11.28%), Restaurant service (10.24%) and Food, alcoholic drinks and tobacco (9.45%).


 “Never allow a crisis to go to waste” – Rahm Emanuel

An ever expanding list of states look to expand gaming. In the unlikely event of a v-shaped economic recovery, a state(s) of fiscal desperation will still prevail. We’re entering an extended bull market for slots.

Hopefully, the slot companies are heeding Mr. Emanuel’s advice and pushing their lobbying efforts at maximum effort.  There are plenty of dominoes yet to fall while many are already tilting.  Prospects for expanded gaming in Ohio, Iowa, Illinois, and Pennsylvania look decent.  With the pressing need for cash, states may step on the accelerator.  Long timelines experienced in Pennsylvania and Maryland are unlikely in these desperate times.

Here’s the state by state summary:

  • Ohio - Governor Strickland signed a directive instructing the director of the Ohio Lottery to immediately begin the process of implementing VLT’s at racetracks.  More details will become available today as the budget is released.  The approved legislation permits a maximum of 2,500 video lottery terminals at each of Ohio’s seven racetracks.  Requirements for each of the racetracks include a $100,000 application fee, a $65 million licensing fee, 50% of all net revenue being retained by the state, and capex requirements of at least $80 million in the first five years of operation with at least $20 million of that in the first year.  The proposal to open the door to four new casinos in downtown Cincinnati, Columbus, Cleveland, and Toledo could be back on the table. The Ohio Jobs and Growth Plan (OJGP) petition to have casinos voted on again in November collected more than twice the necessary amount of signatures required by the state government (400,000).  The Secretary of State is expected to give a final ruling on whether there is a sufficient number of valid signatures on the petition.  Despite the racetracks directive from Gov. Strickland, the OJGP plans to continue its campaign for four new casinos in Ohio.


  • Illinois - The Video Gaming Act was signed into law as part of House Bill 255.  The Act creates a new video poker market under the control of the Illinois Lottery Commission.  The Illinois Coin Machine Operators Association believes the number will end up being around 45,000 to 50,000 units.  The machines will be placed in licensed establishments (bars, taverns), licensed truck-stops, licensed fraternal establishments, and licensed veteran establishments.  The Illinois Gaming Board anticipates that it will be at least a year before gamblers in the Prairie State can legally play video poker.


  • Iowa - In light of Illinois approving video poker, Iowa is trying to decide how best to maintain its gaming market. The Iowa Gaming Commission held a public meeting on Thursday and, after some public comment, unanimously agreed to consider licensing new casinos.  Commissioners’ comments seem to indicate that they will be protective of casinos that are already open and that this process for granting new licenses will be more complicated than it was in the past.   The deadline for applications for licenses is October 1st and the commission is expecting five applications.  Press reports indicate that it could take up to a year for the commission to make any final decision.  Lyon County, in northwestern Iowa, could have a strong chance; the market is underserved and so cannibalization of other casinos’ revenue would not be an issue.  It would also draw from the Sioux Falls, South Dakota, market.  It seems likely that at least two new casino licenses will be granted with 2,000-3,000 slots.


  • Pennsylvania - A Pennsylvania state House panel has approved, on the second attempt, a bill that would legalize and tax video gambling machines in bars.  The proposal is designed to generate grants for tuition costs at one of the fourteen state-owned universities or the fourteen community colleges in Pennsylvania.  Some of the votes for the bill were more tepid than others.  Rep. Curtis Thomas voted yes but still wants to make major changes to the bill when it comes up for action on the House floor.  Even if the House passes the bill before the summer break, Senate action is unlikely before the fall. 


IGT is the obvious play on new gaming jurisdictions since it is the largest slot provider in the world and tends to garner a larger market share in new casinos and expansions (60% vs 40% in replacements).  IGT generates about $0.015 in EPS per 1,000 slots sold.  Indeed, the stock has performed well recently due in part to the potential for new markets.  The long term takeaway is that there will be expanded gaming, the fiscal crisis will dictate that.  The only question is which states and when?  The right trading strategy might be to fade optimism of new legislation and buy into pessimism.  Either way, slots could be at the cusp of a huge bull market as replacement demand is troughing and state fiscal desperation opens new markets across the country.

Casual Dining - June Knapp Track

Malcolm Knapp reported that June same-store sales declined 7.7% with traffic down 7.2%.  For the second consecutive month, comparable guest count results were better than sales, which points to the significant discounting in the industry.  Even with companies trying to drive traffic at the expense of average check and margins, traffic trends decelerated sequentially from May on a 1-year, 2-year and 3-year basis. 

These June numbers do not reflect the same level of decline that we witnessed back in December, but the Q2 numbers overall are worse than Q1.  Same-store sales declined 6.6% on average in Q2 versus -4.2% in Q1.  We will learn more about company-specific Q2 results over the next couple of weeks and the winners will be those companies that have been able to offset these soft sales results with continued cost cutting.

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