Takeaway: "Penney: A Better Plan for DRI" video to follow.
As expected, DRI reported 2QF14 results in which both top and bottom lines came in light. Revenues of $2.05 billion and diluted EPS of $0.15 missed consensus estimates by -0.76% and -22.6%, respectively. Resembling a company in dire need of revival, restaurant level margins and operating margins fell -143 and -140 bps, respectively, in the quarter. Prior to the call, management released its plan to increase shareholder value. This includes plans for a spin-off or sale of the Red Lobster brand. We will hit on the details of the plan and our initial thoughts later in the note.
Management finally did what it was so reluctant to do last quarter and guided down their projections for FY14. As it stands, the company expects FY14 diluted EPS to decline 15-20% year-over-year. Blended same-restaurant sales for Olive Garden, Red Lobster, and LongHorn Steakhouse are also expected to be lower than initially anticipated. Due to this, the company expects revenues to grow 4% to 5%, rather than the prior estimate of 6% to 8%.
Revised FY14 SRS Estimates
- Olive Garden (1%) to (2%)
- Red Lobster (4%) to (5%)
- LongHorn +2% to +3%
2QF14 was another quarter of ugly same-restaurant sales and traffic trends, specifically at DRI’s two largest brands: Olive Garden and Red Lobster. Clearly these two business models (the most important two) are broken. Darden’s smaller brands fared much better in the quarter. Same-restaurants sales were up at LongHorn (+5%), Capital Grille (+6.7%), Bahama Breeze (+5.7%), Eddie V’s (+5.7%), Yard House (+1.2%) and Seasons 52 (+1.2%) during the quarter.
What Darden’s plan failed to address this morning, was how they are going to turn around Olive Garden and Red Lobster. Same-restaurant sales and traffic trends have been anemic for the past several years. We didn’t learn enough about the “Brand Renaissance" initiative at Olive Garden to conclude that it will have a material impact on sales. After all, they just introduced a hamburger to the menu -- How authentically Italian can their vision be? In regards to Red Lobster, management is simply pushing it to the side. There is no real plan to fix it and, to be honest, we’re not even sure it can be fixed.
DARDEN'S PLAN TO ENHANCE SHAREHOLDER VALUE
Separate the Red Lobster Business
The company plans to execute a tax-free spin-off of Red Lobster to shareholders that would close in early FY15. They will also consider a sale of the Red Lobster business. No final decision had been made on the form of separation.
Per page 7 of the company’s investor presentation, the strategic focus of the New Darden and New Red Lobster will be:
“Retaining core customers and expanding customer base to grow same-restaurant sales and market share.”
“Selective investment in expanding customer base and new unit growth to drive cash flow growth and growth in return of capital to shareholders.”
New Red Lobster
“Retaining core customers to maintain stable same-restaurant sales.”
“Consistent and stable cash flow generation to support stable return of capital to shareholders.”
THE HEDGEYE TAKE: This plan is a desperate, yet unfulfilling attempt to appease shareholders. In fact, this separation doesn’t solve much other than removing an underperforming brand from the portfolio. Fixing Olive Garden should be management’s number one priority. Our vision of the New Darden properly aligns Darden’s brands and organizes the portfolio in a way that would be beneficial to each NewCo.
Reduce Unit Growth, Lower Capex, and Forgo Acquisitions
The reduced unit growth will come primarily from Olive Garden, where management plans to halt any new unit growth for at least a few years. They also plan to slightly slow unit growth at LongHorn and expect unit growth at the Specialty Restaurant Group to be slightly lower next fiscal year. This unit growth reduction is estimated to save approximately $100 million in capital expenditures per year. In an effort to allay concerns over the company’s oversized portfolio, management also announced that it will forgo acquisitions of additional brands for the foreseeable future.
THE HEDGEYE TAKE: Similar to Darden’s plans to spin-off the Red Lobster business, these initiatives simply aren’t enough. In our opinion, the company needs to stop growing altogether. We believe management is cutting capital expenditures to cover their dividend this year. In a sense, they aren’t slowing growth because they want to, they are slowing it because they have to.
Increase Cost Savings
Through support cost management, the team expects annual savings of $60 million beginning in FY15. This is slightly up from the $50 million in annual savings the company announced last quarter. They plan to continue the search for cost efficiencies.
THE HEDGEYE TAKE: There’s nothing new here. We actually view this news as disappointing. Darden’s business is riddled with excessive spending. For management to only find an additional $10 million in annual cost savings is, at the very least, discouraging.
Increase Return of Capital to Shareholders
The company plans to use the reduction in capital expenditures and additional cash flow from savings to fund dividends, make opportunistic share repurchases, and strengthen its credit profile. They intend to maintain their $0.55 quarterly dividend.
THE HEDGEYE TAKE: This is one of the only things Darden has been good for over the past several years. As we stated earlier, we believe they were forced to cut costs in order to maintain the current quarterly dividend.
Refine Compensation and Incentive Programs
The company plans to refine compensation and incentive programs for senior management to more directly emphasize same-restaurant sales performance and free cash flow growth. The company currently rewards management for growing sales and earnings.
THE HEDGEYE TAKE: There weren’t too many details provided with this, but it sounds like a step in the right direction. Compensation and incentive programs, however, should be very far down the priority list if the team is serious about fixing the business and unlocking shareholder value.
A number of analysts appeared agitated on the call, particularly in regards to management’s loose projections for FY15. Analysts appeared concerned with the authenticity of the strategic plan, the feeble cost cuts, the potential for a REIT or sale leaseback, and whether meaningful value would be created through the spin-off of Red Lobster.
We don’t believe the initiatives announced today are enough to unlock the true, underlying value of Darden. Quite frankly, it seems as though these moves were made simply because management had to do something. Spinning off Red Lobster, slightly slowing growth, and cutting capital expenditures to fund the dividend does very little to help fix the business.
The company’s number one priority should be turning around Olive Garden. It is a strong, iconic brand that should be the leader in the casual dining category. This starts with getting the right management team in place that will harness the brand’s authentic Italian heritage.
Following the call, we are as convinced as ever before that this is not the final step. We expect to see more activist pressure in the coming months and believe that Darden will eventually be properly restructured; if this is the case, there will be significant shareholder value to be had. As we've said before -- we know how this will end, we just don’t know when.
12/17/13 – Best Idea Update: Long DRI
12/11/13 – Restaurant Impossible: Fixing Olive Garden
10/30/13 – DRI: Pending FY2Q14 Disaster?
10/18/13 – Dismantling Darden: Hedgeye vs. Barington
10/15/13 – DRI: A Generational Opportunity
9/12/13 – Dismantling Darden
8/21/13 – DRI: Restructuring Charge Looming?
6/26/13 – DRI: Beware of False Narratives
6/21/13 – DRI Comps Flatter to Deceive
6/17/13 – DRI Remains a Win-Win
5/23/13 – DRI’s Jamie Question
Let us know if you have any questions or would like to discuss anything in more detail.
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Takeaway: Today marks the first week of bona fide soft data in a long time. Confidence, meanwhile, remains resurgent.
This morning’s Initial jobless claims data reflected a second week of deterioration for the domestic labor market. While the broader trend remains healthy and seasonality will continue to build as a tailwind, the recent softness is noteworthy in that there is no discrete, identifiable distortion other than the seasonal volatility that generally characterizes the peri-holiday period. We wouldn’t read too much into the recent advance in claims, but it is worth a flag.
Confidence, meanwhile, remains resurgent with bloomberg’s weekly read on consumer confidence recapturing the elusive 20-handle as the post-government shutdown hangover in populace sentiment continues to ebb. We’ll get the final University of Michigan reading on Monday, but the preliminary data showed a positive inflection similar to that observed in the bloomberg survey.
The U.S. dollar has moved in lockstep with monthly confidence over the past year and, now, with the taper announcement on the tape and the dollar recapturing the $80.15 TRADE line, we’re vapidly optimistic we could see a return to sustainable, #StrongDollar led growth into 2014.
Below is the breakdown of this morning's claims data from the Hedgeye Financials team along with some sector specific insight. If you would like to setup a call with Josh or Jonathan or trial their research, please contact
- Hedgeye Macro
INITIAL CLAIMS: Should We Be Concerned?
The labor data has softened now for two weeks in a row. The first week of weak data (two weeks ago) represented a seasonal mismatch and wasn't anything overly noteworthy. The second week - the most recent week - however, showed a more legitimate soft patch in the data.
Normally, we see a surge in claims following black Friday representing the seasonal layoff of retail workers. Then, in the following week we see claims drop sharply. For reference, the average increase in claims from post-Black Friday layoffs over the last six years has been 175,000 (NSA). The subsequent decline in claims has averaged 91,000. That works out to a 52% reduction in the post-black Friday surge. This year, we saw an increase of 147,000 post-black Friday followed by a decline of 48,000, or right around a decline of 1/3 - well below the normal retracement. We'll keep a close eye on the trends into year-end.
Separately, with the Fed finally tapering its bond purchases we think it's important to remind investors of the setup going into the new year. Remember that the labor market has a built in tailwind that strengthens steadily from September through February, peaking in February/March and then reversing, and, ultimately, troughing in August/September.
This should be supportive of rising rates through 1Q14. We've shown rate correlations across the Financials over the bulk of 2013 and we would expect that the playbook through the next 2-4 months should mirror that. For more information on how to position in that environment, see our note from 11/22/13 entitled #Rates-Rising: A Current Look at Rate Sensitivity Across Financials.
Prior to revision, initial jobless claims rose 11k to 379k from 368k WoW, as the prior week's number was revised up by 1k to 369k.
The headline (unrevised) number shows claims were higher by 10k WoW. Meanwhile, the 4-week rolling average of seasonally-adjusted claims rose 13.25k WoW to 342.25k.
The 4-week rolling average of NSA claims, which we consider a more accurate representation of the underlying labor market trend, was -7.7% lower YoY, which is a sequential deterioration versus the previous week's YoY change of -13.0%
Joshua Steiner, CFA
Jonathan Casteleyn, CFA, CMT
Cost initiatives and guidance (although timing did help to some extent) for 2014 are encouraging. As expected, the demand environment remains challenging with 2014 yield guidance 'slightly down', which was below Street expectations.
- Better than expected ticket/onboard (mainly occurred at Carnival Cruise lines: 5 cent impact, lower fuel, favorable FX)
- Net ticket yields declined due NA brands (-6%, lower yields at premium brands and Carnival)
- EAA brands: +3%
- Net onboard and other
- EAA brands +2% (increase at Costa offset by declines in other Euro brands), NA brands flat
- NCC- higher advertising expense due to timing between 4Q and 1Q 2014
- Capacity increased 3%
- Has seen significant recovery in brand perception of Carnival brand from their surveys
- Costa brand surveys were also very encouraging. EAA brands (ex Costa) was weak and EAA yields for FY 2013 was -2%
- Large capacity increase in Caribbean starting in F2Q; still facing ongoing challenging economic environment in Southern Europe
- For 1H 2014: fleetwide volumes during last 13 weeks running well ahead of prior outpacing capacity at prices that are lower. Despite the recent high volumes, the cumulative bookings for the first half on a fleetwide basis are still behind at lower prices.
- Expecting lower yields in 1H 2014. North American brands impacted by challenging comps
- EAA brands face ongoing economic environment challenges in southern Europe, the loss of the attractive red sea program, and close in bookings curve that is impacting first half.
- 3Q 2014
- Fleetwide occupancy is similar to last year while pricing is flat. Still expect positive yields in 3Q
- Booking patterns:
- Caribbean: behind both on price and occupancy; represents 60% capacity of 1H 2014 and +40% in 3Q of NA brands
- Alaska: behind on price but well ahead on occu
- Booking volumes solid
- European progam for NA brands showing signs of strength, particularly in 3Q where pricing/occupancy up nicely
- EAA: Euro program represent 60% of EA capacity; sees sequential improvement in YoY pricing and in each quarter from 1Q to 3Q. Booking volumes for Euro programs have been nicely higher as well.
- 2014 cost forecast: cost per ALBD will be up only slightly
- Timing of expenses factored into the reduced cost guidance from September's
- Found ways to do some of vessel enhancement and service thereby reducing drydock days
- There will be a more efficient Seaborne ship to replace three smaller original ships in 2016
- Experienced faster recovery for Carnival brand than originally anticipated
- Cautious on whether current pace of recovery is sustainable
Q & A
- Some Carnival ships will sail with empty cabins in back half of year but just a couple of points of occu.
- Costa up double digits in 4Q (we saw this in our pricing survey); other brands down; overall EAA yields up 2%
- Costa: 2014 pricing is recovering but it is early
- Cost mgmt initiatives: port and inventory mgmt; less brochures printed-save $$$, will carry forward into 2014
- 1H 2014: good bookings at lower prices; however, they remain at lower end or slightly below (couple of % points) historical bookings curve
- Costa/Carnival recovery period: 2-3 years
- Costa recovery impeded by weak Euro economy; hence, Costa recovery may take longer than the 2-3 years
- Advertising spend: invested heavily in Carnival and investing in other brands. Will continue in 1Q. For FY 2014, advertising spend substantially ahead of 2012 and higher than 2013.
- Capex guidance: 2014 ($2.9 bn), 2015 ($2.8 bn), 2016 ($2.9 bn)
- 2014 Asia: 5% capacity; yields in Asia a little bit below corporate average. May expand in that region in the future
- Have sourced 250k passengers. Will source 500k passengers in 2014
- Long-term 2-3% fuel consumption reduction each year. 4% goal for 2014
- 1H 2014: Both quarters need catching up in bookings.
- 2014 capacity growth: 1.8% (1Q), 4.9% (2Q), 2.5% (3Q), 4.5% (4Q); FY (2.8%)
- Say lay off other vessels but that will be evaluated on an ongoing basis
- 2015: will continue focus on costs
- Long-term: expect NCC ex fuel (flat to half of inflation)
- Every % point in yield equates to 15 cents on EPS
- 40 cent EPS band - prudent before Wave season
- 2014 maintenance capex: $1.4 bn (2014, 2015), $1.0 bn (2016)
- -15% in 2012
- +4% in 2013
- expect continued recovery in 2014
- Premium brands (Holland/Princess)
- Europe consumer base weaker
- Significant supply increase in premium segment
- Fair to say that more than majority of $265MM higher EICA costs will disappear. Will discuss in detail in 10K.
- Overall web bookings higher
- Marketing campaigns have been helping Carnival
- 2014 onboard yield: up a little over 1%
This note was originally published December 19, 2013 at 08:02 in Morning Newsletter
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“The way I feel about music is that there is no right and wrong. Only true and false.” -Fiona Apple
The big picture
I was dead wrong on the no-taper call yesterday, and (after covering my US Dollar short position within minutes of the decision) was somehow positioned right (8 LONGS, 0 SHORTS). Where I was brought up, being right for the wrong reasons is called luck.
True or False: Ben Bernanke did the right thing in tapering yesterday? True. Whether or not his obeying the US 2013 #GrowthAccelerating data on a lag (he’s 3 months late in making a decision he should have made in September) proves to be right is up to history.
I think that if most people were intellectually honest about it, they wouldn’t have told you that A) Bernanke was going to taper yesterday AND B) US stocks would rip to all-time highs on that. But they did. That is the only truth that matters this morning.
So what do we do now? Sticking with the process, that’s actually the easiest call to make. We simply go right back to where we were positioned from December 2012-September 2013:
- Long Growth (Equities)
- Short Gold, Bonds (and Equities that look like Bonds, like MLPs)
- #RatesRising + a USD that isn’t going down in a ball of flames = bad for Gold Bond positions
- #Flows (out of Gold Bonds into US Growth Stocks) should dominate well into the new year
That’s why my 1st three moves in #RealTimeAlerts after the taper decision yesterday were:
- COVER US Dollar Short
- SHORT Pimco’s Total Return Fund (BOND)
- SHORT Kinder Morgan (KMI)
It’s one thing to make mistakes in this game. It’s entirely another to make mistake-upon-mistake after making that first mistake. In hockey terms, give away the puck once – feel shame. Give it away again – feel sitting on cold Canadian bench for rest of game.
I could have easily given away the puck post taper yesterday buying something like Gold because it was down. It’s down a lot more this morning (Silver -3.9%, Gold -1.1%) and testing its June 27th YTD closing low of $1200/oz.
True or false: Gold hates #RatesRising?
- US Treasury 10yr Yield 2.88% = +17 bps month-over-month and +112 bps YTD
- Gold (started the yr at $1675) = still crashing, -28.3% YTD
Another puck I could have given away would have been trying the long Yen “because everyone is short the Yen.”
True or false: Nikkei loves Burning Yen?
- Japanese Yen (vs USD) = crashing, -17% YTD
- Nikkei = +1.7% overnight to +54.97% YTD
In other words, as soon as you saw the word “taper” yesterday, you got the Dollar right (up) and that helped you get a lot of other things Global Macro right.
True or false: Dollar Up = Emerging Markets Down?
- US Dollar (despite being UP now for 1st wk in 6) = +1.1% YTD
- MSCI Emerging Markets Index = down -5.9% YTD
Oh, and despite the epic US Equity market rip to all-time highs (SP500 1810 = +26.9% YTD), Emerging Equity markets in Asia were down overnight (India -0.72%, Philippines -0.64%). Turkeys’ stock market is -0.7% this morning too.
On the taper news yesterday, Argentina, Chile, and Peru all saw their stock markets close down on the day. “Emerging” commodity countries = #EmergingOutflows.
So is it the marketing messages of asset management firms that are perma long Gold, Bonds, and Emerging Markets that are right or wrong in a Dollar Up + #RatesRising environment? Or are the perceptions of their investors simply false?
The truth is always in the balance of your account. It’s there, each and every market day, whether you played lucky or not.
- CASH: 52%
- US EQUITIES: 12%
- INTL EQUITIES: 12%
- COMMODITIES: 0%
- FIXED INCOME: 0%
- INTL CURRENCIES: 24%
Our immediate-term Global Macro Risk Ranges are now:
Best of luck out there today,
Keith R. McCullough
Chief Executive Officer
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