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Many commentators are claiming that Macau casino revenues have increased up to 60% year-over-year after the first 20 days of September and are on pace to repeat August’s record of MOP11.27 billion.  The growth is said to be due to Beijing relaxing visa restrictions, increased spending per gambler, and an easy comp with last year. 


The head of Macau’s Travel Industry Council said last month that Guangdong residents could visit Macau once a month from September 1, up from once every two months previously.  In addition, effective yesterday, the official implementation of a VIP junket commission cap will further help operators’ earnings.




Steve Wynn, speaking at a news conference Wednesday, confirmed that Chinese authorities recently relaxed travel restrictions for Guangdong residents visiting Macau.  Wynn said the Chinese government considered macroeconomic factors and made the decision in conjunction with the Macau government.  Wynn Resorts is planning to raise up to US1.6 billion in a Hong Kong initial public offering of its Macau assets.


PFCB’s Co-CEO Bert Vivian presented at an investor conference this afternoon and provided some commentary on 3Q trends and a first glimpse at 2010.  Mr. Vivian maintained his less than encouraging near-term outlook for the industry but appeared optimistic about the long-term prospects at PFCB.  In 2Q09, same-store sales growth declined 6.8% at the Bistro and was relatively flat at Pei Wei.  At that time, management had said that the Bistro had underperformed relative to internal targets while Pei Wei outperformed.  Looking at 3Q09, Mr. Vivian stated that sales trends at both the Bistro and Pei Wei are similar to what we saw in 2Q with the Bistro continuing to struggle. 


The company is currently planning for muted development in 2010 with about 4-5 Bistros in the pipeline and about 2 Pei Wei units.  Management is exploring additional sites for Pei Wei development, primarily in existing markets, but these sites are most likely slated for 2011 openings.  So, overall, new unit development will come down again in 2010.


Mr. Vivian stated that he has to believe that the environment will get better in 2010.  That being said, with reduced unit growth, he is not expecting much in the way of revenue growth.  He even said, “If comps somehow magically went plus 10%, you’d probably find me dancing naked in the streets.”  Instead, he thinks that -5% to +5% revenue growth is a more reasonable range.  Assuming flat revenues in 2010, Mr. Vivian expects that based on the company’s current outlook that cost of sales will be somewhat favorable relative to 2009 (outside of produce which is not contracted), PCFB will be able to hold labor and cost of sales (60% of restaurant expenses) flat as a percent of sales. 


If these revenue and cost expectations prove to be right, the company should continue to generate more free cash flow in 2010 (guided to $70-$80 million in free cash flow in 2009).  With this cash, PFCB will continue to pay down debt (and expects to be debt free by mid 2010) and buy back shares.  Additionally, Mr. Vivian said that management could discuss paying a dividend.

Risk Management: SP500 Levels, Refreshed...

Today, it looks like we are going to lock in another higher-high for the YTD. With higher prices, our risk management models are registering higher immediate term TRADE targets.

  1. Immediate term TRADE resistance = 1080
  2. Immediate term TRADE support = 1058

Higher-lows of support with multiple support lines below them, is what it is – bullish until it isn’t. If something gets this market to crack and close below 1058, that puts the dotted-green line at 1037 in play. Otherwise, the bullish TREND in the SP500 shall remain your friend.



Keith R. McCullough
Chief Executive Officer


Risk Management: SP500 Levels, Refreshed... - a1

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By Rebecca Runkle and Team


“It’s choice -- not chance -- that determines your destiny” Jean Nidetch


I always find it worthwhile to take a fresh look at change after a (hopefully decent) night’s sleep.  My head is clearer and less biased with my knee-jerk reaction and I am better able to digest the situation with a rational mindset.  This morning my mind is filled with Dell’s proposed acquisition of Perot for $3.9 billion.  Taking all things into consideration, this will prove a decidedly strategic and positive deal for Dell.  See Rebecca Runkle’s portal for more details.


TODAY’S TRADE - Runkle was one of the first in 09' to be bullish on DELL, and after CS downgraded it, she's the first to defend this Perot deal (see her note for details). Buying red!



HEALTHCARE: Doctors Behaving Badly 

By Tom Tobin and Team


President Obama keeps talking about ways to fix "runaway healthcare costs" without talking about the way Medicare pays for services.

The payment process has avoided scrutiny throughout the Health "Insurance" Reform debate. Payment Reform should be well ahead on President Obama's to-do list than banter with David Letterman.  The debate is still not changing, although 500 amendments to the Baucus proposal would suggest an intense interest in getting something done despite the political stalemate.  I see lawmakers staking out a new sphere of political influence rather than dealing with Obama's 8 core principals and it’s not dissimilar to watching the specialist dominated AMA (70% of its membership) write the reimbursement codes which Medicare uses to pay physicians for services (self-dealing).  Check out the links below for a more thorough discussion of why this is a bigger problem than mandates and taxes on Cadillac health plans.


We are long the XLV and AMGN, QGEN and UNH are our favorite names in Healthcare.


See Tom Tobin’s portal for more details. 




By Brian McGough and Team


While Dollar General’s impending IPO is likely one of the largest and most visible IPO’s on the calendar, it is worth noting that there are a handful of other apparel/retail companies lined up to go public in the coming months. For now, the list is as global as we’ve seen in a long time, but we suspect many U.S. private equity firms will be watching closely to see how these offerings fare as they too contemplate monetizing some of their “peak-market” acquisitions.  See Brian McGough portal for more of the details …  


UA continues to be our favorite long-term names…


Is Your Team Effective?

Most of us in the money management business have experience working and making decision in teams.  Whether it be on the athletic field during collegiate sports, in graduate school for study teams, or in the actual work place, working and interacting effectively as a team can be critical for success.  This weekend we read an interesting study relating to the most effective teams for investment committees that was written by Michael Mauboussin from Legg Mason Capital Management. 


Some of the key takeaways from Maboussin’s work, which was a summary of other studies,  was as follows:

  • According to J. Richard Hackman, a professor of psychology at Harvard University: “My rule of thumb is that no work team should have membership in the double digits (and my preferred size is six), since our research has shown that the number of performance problems a team encounters increases exponentially as team size increases”;


  • Brooke Harrington, a research at the Max Planck Institute for the Study of Societies, analyzed investment groups and found: “The larger the proportion of friendship and other socioeconomic ties within a group, the worse its portfolio performs; the larger the proportion of relationships based on professional, financial, or academic ties, the better the group performs”;


  • A survey by Arnold Wood and John Payne found that 85 percent of investment committee members were white males over 50 years old, they found no members under 30, only 15% were women, and only 5% were minorities; and


  • A recent survey of defined contribution committees found that they spent over one-half of their time, more than that on any other issue, discussing past investment performance – an unimportant knowable. Unimportant in the sense that there is nothing the committee can do about it ; and


  • In putting together committees, leaders sometimes seek to find experts to match the problems the committee will face.  So if the committee needs to decide about an allocation into alternative investments, they seek a member with experience in alternatives.  According to Phillip Tetlock, a psychologist at the University of California-Berkeley, writes: “People who devoted years of arduous study to a topic were as hard pressed as colleagues casually dropping in from other fields to affix realistic probabilities to possible future outcomes.”

The conclusion of all these points is that most effective decision making teams should have a number of attributes.  First, these teams should be a manageable number.  Second, the group should not be incestuous in terms of social ties.  Third, there should be a diversity of experiences within the group.  Fourth, groups should not overweight “expertise” for longer term decision making.  Finally, time allocation is critical and groups should focus on finding solutions to important questions (not debating the market or prior performance).


Our firm is comprised of quite a few Yalies and, as many of you know, we are located on the outskirts of Yale’s Campus in New Haven, CT, so we are obviously predisposed to like all things Yale.  We are not beyond You Tubing ourselves though, and a quick look at Yale’s Investment Committee suggests that it may not have the most optimal structure.    The Yale University Investment Committee has ten members, and eight of those members are white males.  Two of the members, Richard Levin and Shauna King, work for Yale.  Of the remaining eight that do not work for Yale, seven work in the finance industry.  The only outlier is Judge Barrington Parker.  So, in aggregate, the Yale Investment Committee has a very white, male, and finance oriented Investment Committee, with very comparable social levels.   In theory, this is a very suboptimal structure.


That said, it is possible for some investment committees or decision making teams to outperform.  This will occur when the individual members of the groups are better individual decision makers than average.  A political scientist at the University of Michigan developed the diversity prediction theorem and the equation reads as follows:

  • Collective Error = Average Individual Error – Prediction Diversity

The takeaway is that if the average individual error is lower for a group then that group may be able to overcome a deficiency in diversity.


In conclusion, as we make strategic decisions as teams, whether it be for investments or the strategic direction of a business unit or company, we can structure teams in such a way to make much, much better decision and plans, so as to increase our probability of success.  The days of a small group of white men going on an offsite to make strategic decisions are behind us, or at least the research tells us they should be.



Daryl G. Jones
Managing Director


Casual Dining – Outback’s new look

Although Outback Steakhouse is out of the public eye, it does not mean that what it is doing is not important.  We know that business is tough for Outback Steakhouse, as the company reported last month that same-store sales at the Outback dropped 10.4% in the second quarter ended June 30.  Clearly, the company needs to do something to change the perception of the concept, outside of just lowering menu prices. 


The following are a few pictures of the remodels the company has done in Florida and Virginia.  With 900 units in the US, Outback is a competitor that should not be forgotten.  Just something to keep in mind as it relates to the other steakhouse competitors.


Casual Dining – Outback’s new look - osi1


Casual Dining – Outback’s new look - osi2


Casual Dining – Outback’s new look - osi3



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