ICON: Where are the Slides?

ICON: Where are the Slides?

OCTOBER 1, 2009





In the wake of yesterday’s negative pre-announcement I couldn’t help but take a look at a timeline of Iconix’s historical capital raises and acquisitions.  I also couldn’t ignore the fact that this timeline has typically followed a simple pattern.  Raise capital, make an acquisition, manufacture earnings, and thereby convincing shareholders that they could create more value by doing deals than investors could investing the capital on their own.  Perhaps this is the very root of why today’s 20+% sell off in the shares is so pronounced.  Was management anticipating an accretive and/or noteworthy acquisition to take place during the quarter after it raised $150 million on June 3rd?   I think so.


ICON: Where are the Slides? - Iconix 1


Whether a deal was or was not on the way, we can’t ignore the facts. Recall, that CEO Neil Cole and two directors sold 800,000 shares as part of the offering in early June.  The timing of those insider sales aren’t looking so good right now.  Third quarter guidance was then provided on August 4th, a time in which management would have had at least some visibility into the quarter and the acquisition pipeline.  That brings us to today, sort of…


Clearly something is amiss and credibility is plummeting by the minute.   As late as last week (September 23rd), the company republished its prior guidance in an investor presentation at Credit Suisse’s “Global Brands in China” Conference.  A quick download of the slides from that day in Shanghai could confirm this, although within the last 30 minutes it appears that the file has been removed!   That brings us to this morning, when ICON lowered its EPS expectations for the current quarter and the year, citing slightly weaker sales and higher than anticipated dilution from the equity offering for which they already provided guidance. 


ICON: Where are the Slides? - Iconix 2


If a deal was or is in the works (Mark Ecko Enterprises and Eddie Bauer both mentioned intra-quarter) it is taking longer to consummate.  Perhaps there is no deal at all.  Whatever the case may be, it is clear from the announcement that cash on the balance sheet is not a substitute for growth or consolation for a dilutive equity deal.  Credibility is now the single biggest factor impacting ICON and I am sure that today is just the beginning of a long road ahead for both the shares and management.




Some Notable Call Outs


  • In an effort and offer as many options as possible to cash strapped consumers, Best Buy is launching and testing some new initiatives for the holiday season.  The company is launching its “Pitch In” gift card on October 6th.  The reloadable card connects to an online wish list which in turn allows for friend and relatives to contribute an amount of their choice towards the purchase of a particular item.  Additionally, the company is testing layway in Michigan, but it is unlikely the program will be rolled out nationally before year-end.  Also keep an eye out on substantially increased utilization of Twitter and Facebook to generate marketing buzz.


  • Michelle Leder, our SEC filings expert discovered that Chicos filed an 8K that unredacts (removes sensitive information so that it may be distributed to a broader audience) certain portions of a $55 million credit agreement it entered into back in December. Companies don't unredact stuff voluntarily 8 months later, which means someone -- regulators or some AG -- was asking for this.





-Europe: EC plans anti-dumping on footwear - The European Union is going to extend its anti-dumping measures against Chinese footwear imports next month but the extension to the punitive tariffs will be for two years instead of the normal five, and will exempt children's footwear and sports shoes. Imports of shoes from Vietnam will be exempted from the extension.  <>


-German Retail Sales Unexpectedly Drop on Joblessness; Jobless Numbers Likely to Rise - In Germany retail sales unexpectedly fell in August as concern about rising unemployment kept a lid on consumer spending. Sales, adjusted for inflation and seasonal swings, decreased 1.5 percent from July, when they rose 0.7 percent. Unemployment rose in September. Jobless numbers will likely swell in coming months as companies that are using government-sponsored work programs with shortened hours will be forced to cut jobs eventually, economists said. <>


-China: Luxury auto brands eye 2nd-, 3rd-tier Chinese cities - Luxury automakers are casting their eye to second- and third-tier Chinese cities, when the markets of first-tier cities are becoming saturated, reported in the local press. Audi has shifted the focus of its China expansion from big cities onto small and medium cities. Last year, it located its first Asian city exhibition hall in Ningbo, a port city in the eastern Chinese province of Zhejjiang. <>


-Crocs. Inc. Secures New Asset-Backed Credit Facility - Crocs, Inc. said it has entered into a new asset-backed revolving credit facility with PNC as of Sept. 25, 2009. The agreement provides for up to $30 million in revolving loans which may be used for working capital needs and other items, as stipulated in the agreement. Certain of the company’s subsidiaries were co-borrowers under the agreement.



-PepsiCo CEO to Spend More on Ads, Push Gatorade for Athletes - the world’s largest snack-food maker, plans to increase advertising spending next year and is readying new Gatorade products to boost consumption, Chairman and Chief Executive Officer Indra Nooyi said. PepsiCo maintained its ad budgets this year, taking advantage of media rates that declined 25 percent to 40 percent, Nooyi, 53, said yesterday in an interview in New York. The company also has shifted more of its spending to digital media, she said. <>


Japan’s Tankan Survey Shows Companies Plan Deeper Spending Cuts - Japanese companies plan to deepen investment cuts as profits slump, inhibiting the recovery from the nation’s worst postwar recession, the central bank’s Tankan survey showed. Large businesses aim to cut spending 10.8 percent this year, more than the 9.4 percent planned three months ago. <>


India: MMF textile exports grow despite downturn - Exports of Indian man-made fibre textiles have reached US$3481 million (Rs.15,863 crores) during 2008-09, representing a growth of nearly 4% in terms of US dollar terms and 18% in terms of rupee compared to that of the previous financial year.



-CIT Group Nears Bankruptcy Again - CIT Group Inc. is trying to hammer out a restructuring plan as bankruptcy once again loomed over the lender, a financial cornerstone to many fashion producers and retailers. At least some fashion companies have tweaked their agreements with CIT or made other financing arrangements. And if a deal can’t be worked out and the 101-year-old lender does become insolvent, it is now expected to have a relatively orderly bankruptcy, mitigating the impact on its clients, financial sources said. <>


Bernard Chaus Inc. See Sales Slip - Bernard Chaus Inc. suffered deeper losses on lower sales during the fourth quarter and fiscal year as growth in its Kenneth Cole licensed business failed to compensate for declines in the Cynthia Steffe and private label product lines. According to the firm’s annual report, filed this week with the Securities and Exchange Commission, the net loss grew to $6 million, or 16 cents a diluted share, in the fourth quarter ended June 30, from a loss of $3.2 million, or 9 cents, in the year-ago quarter. <>


-New pro Fowler signs with Puma for apparel and footwear -Fledgling professional Rickie Fowler, ranked as the nation's top amateur golfer the past two years, has signed on Puma Golf to wear its apparel and footwear. Fowler will be featured in Puma's Spring/Summer 2010 marketing campaigns for the brand, specifically for the golf category. <>


-J.C. Penney rolls out digital coupons for cell phones - J.C. Penney Co. shoppers in Houston now can download digital coupons to their mobile phones, which can be scanned on the phone’s display screen at the cash register. The multichannel retailer will offer coupons nearly every week through the holiday shopping season. <>


-Johnson Outdoors Inc. Refinances Debt - Johnson Outdoors Inc. has refinanced and restructured the company's debt, thereby reducing estimated 2010 borrowing costs by more than 40 percent compared with fiscal year 2009.The highlights of the debt refinancing include: Total debt availability of up to $84.9 million through two new credit facilities secured primarily by the Company's U.S. assets. All related loan agreements have been signed and closed. A revolving credit facility that provides financing of up to $69million which matures in 2012 with availability based on eligible account receivables and inventory. The new financing structure replaces the company's current amended credit agreements which were arranged by JP Morgan Chase and would have matured in 2010. <>


-Blacks Leisure to Close 89 Stores - Blacks Leisure, the U.K. outdoor chain, announced plans to close 89 stores across the group that have not "traded profitably for years". The firm, which operates Millets, Blacks and O'Neill shops, also said it plans to lay off 50 employees at its Northampton head office.

Last week, it called in administrators to its 11 O'Neill boardwear stores - threatening 90 jobs. It also said a drop in sales during the downturn meant it would breach the terms of its bank loans. Pasted from <>


-K-Swiss Partners with LA Marathon - In support of its recent focus on the technical running market, K-Swiss Inc. has agreed to a multiyear deal with the Los Angeles Marathon to become the official footwear and apparel sponsor. The partnership includes a collaborative effort between K-Swiss and the marathon to produce a full collection of apparel, which will be sold at retail, online and at K-Swiss’ managed and owned stores in Asia. The collection will also sell on race day through various retail “pop-up” stores, as well as at the Expo, a two-day health and wellness convention that coincides with the March 21, 2010, marathon. <>


-Hugo Boss signs Graeme Black to drive womenswear - Hugo Boss has named London-based designer Graeme Black as creative consultant for the Boss Black women’s collection. Black, who will continue to design his signature label, began working for the German company in the spring. Black has collaborated with director of Boss Black womenswear, Karin Busnel. <>


-Gucci Snake Bag Draws Ire in China as Wage Gaps Widen - At China’s newest Gucci store, in Shijiazhuang, snakeskin purses sell for the equivalent of $4,390, about twice the city’s per capita annual income. Next door at Brooks Brothers, button-down shirts go for $190. “Shijiazhuang is becoming very well off,” Brooks Brothers saleswoman Wang Weixia, 24, says of the provincial capital, 291 kilometers (181 miles) southwest of Beijing. “A few years ago it was poor and backwards.” <>



RESEARCH EDGE PORTFOLIO: (Comments by Keith McCullough): WRC, NKE, PSS


09/30/2009 10:21 AM


Keeping a trade a trade. Levine doesn't want me to be short into the analyst event (Friday), and I don't need to be. (easing margin compares here, both current qtr and next). Everything has a time/price. Covering red. KM


09/30/2009 10:37 AM


Another lower all time high for Nike. Great company, great people, and a great price to sell into. McGough owns this debate. The intermediate term view from this price is negative. KM


09/30/2009 03:28 PM


McGough has had me wait, patiently, here on price. His analysis is crystal clear and there is a catalyst next week (see his note on PSS today). Buying red. KM





DECK: Peter Worley, President of Teva, sold 1,500 shares ($128k), 5% of total common holdings.


FINL: Bill Kirkendall, Director, sold 6,000 shares ($60k) after excising the right to buy 5,000 shares, 95% of total common holdings.


GES: Michael Relich, SVP & CIO, sold 1800 shares ($67k), less than 9% of total common holdings.



  • Michael Steinberg, Director, sold 6,750 shares ($189k) after exercising the right to buy 6,750 shares, nearly 60% of total common holdings.
  • Alan Gold, Director, sold 6,700 shares ($188k) after exercising the right to buy 6,700 shares, nearly 35% of total common holdings.



  • Steven Nelson, Vice President, bought 240 shares (nearly $4k), less than 1% of total common holdings.
  • William Dillard, CEO, bought 740 shares ($11k), less than 1% of total common holdings.
  • Robin Sanderford, Vice President Tampa Division, bought 370 shares ($6k), less than 1% of total common holdings.
  • Paul Schroeder, Vice President, General Counsel, bought 450 shares ($7k), less than 1% of total common holdings.
  • Jamie Freeman, Senior Vice President, CFO, bought 560 shares ($8k), less than 1% of total common holdings.
  • Drue Matheny, Executive Vice President, bought 530 shares ($8k), less than 1% of total common holdings.
  • Kent Burnett, Vice President of Phoenix Division, bought 450 shares ($7k), less than 1% of total common holdings.
  • David Terry, Chairman of St. Louis Division, bought 200 shares ($3k), less than 2% of total common holdings.
  • Ales Dillard, President, bought 660 shares ($10k), less than 1% of total common holdings.
  • Burt Squires, Corporate Vice President of Stores, bought 350 shares ($6k), less than 1% of total common holdings.


All else being equal, I thought the Casual Dining group held up well yesterday.  I continue to think the FSR stocks are ahead of themselves given that demand is still very sluggish and we are nearing the end of the rope for many companies that have relied on cost cutting.


The next two big data points for the Restaurant Industry will be YUM’s 3Q09 EPS, which will be released after the market closes on Tuesday October 6th.  Also, on Wednesday RT releases its FY1Q EPS after the market closes.  We will have more to say shortly on each company, but I am not looking for any positives surprises out of either company.







“If stupidity got us into this mess, then why can’t it get us out?”
-Will Rogers
That’s the quote that leads off Chapter 17 of Liaquat Ahamed’s “Lords of Finance.” It is one of my favorite chapters in the book. It’s titled “Purging The Rottenness.”
In the rear-view mirror, was the American Financial system as we knew it rotten? You bet your Madoff it was. And it doesn’t stop with 2008 or with the Bernies (Bernie Marcus was the rotten rat who ran The Bank of the United States (BUS) ponzi scheme out of NYC in the 1920’s before it was went Lehman Light (under), causing most Americans to distrust the Wall Street system).
Versus the constant banking crises of the 1920’s and 1930’s, the really bad news is that now we have YouTube and the internet. Bad news for some of these CEO bankers that is…
But don’t worry, they get it. In the last 48 hours, after announcing he is stepping out of his CEO seat, we’ve had Morgan Stanley’s John Mack proclaim his mystery of faith that now we need a “Global Banking Regulator”; Kenny Lewis has resigned; and the Almighty Jaime Dimon has been rumored to be tee’ing up his exit stage left from the house that JP Morgan built.
To be willfully blind to the idea that these guys only know what they know as of yesterday’s P&L is one thing. To understand how they manage their career risk is entirely another. “If stupidity got us into this mess, then why can’t it get us out?” There are no more big checks waiting at the end of that rat tunnel folks. The Rottenness is being purged…
I’m still too young for most people to take my word for these lines of thoughts, so take Paul Volcker’s. I can’t stop rewinding the DVR of this Charlie Rose interview with the ex-Chairman of the US Federal Reserve. His clarity of thought on what caused the Rottenness is impressive. He basically calls the Fuld’s and the Mack’s and the Paulson’s (nope, it want just Dick!), the “financial engineers” who were paid to be willfully blind to the math.
No matter what career risk management moves these CEOs make in the coming years, history will remind us that they didn’t do the math associated with risk management outside the bell curve of shareholder probabilities. If you are depending on these guys to get us out, think again. Accountability will not be purged from this mess.
Back to the grind…
Yesterday, I was focused on The New Reality’s 3-Some (Warsh, Plosser, and Fisher). Bond yields were shooting up in the morning and, come the afternoon, the Fed’s Vice Chairman, Donald Kohn, was shooting them down…
You see, to be In De Fed Head Leadership Club, you need to tow the political line. Kohn is a veteran of this conflicted and compromised US Government institution, so don’t blame him for any of that Rottenness we’ve been talking about. He was just one of the guys who has been overseeing it!
Kohn came out intraday reiterating what Heli-Ben Bernanke said to take the US Dollar to its knees last Wednesday (the September 23rd intraday low of $75.80 for the US Dollar Index). Kohn said that “exceptionally low interest rates are likely to be warranted for an extended period…” To America’s Creditors (The Chinese), that surely sounded as rotten as it has for the last 6 months. The US Dollar started to tank and 2-year yields took an intraday swan dive, breaking my immediate term TRADE line of 0.97%.
Some traders clinged to that “exceptional” headline, but I found Kohn’s follow-on comments inflectionary. He said “we must begin to withdraw accommodation well before aggregate spending threatens to press against potential supply, and well before inflation as well as inflation expectations rise above levels consistent with price stability.” On the margin, that’s much more hawkish than the Vice Chairman has been. Take note.
Until the math changes, what matters to anything priced in US Dollars is Fed Policy. Rhetoric will signal the timing of the hike. If you wait until the day of the hike, you’ll be left behind. Markets move on expectations.
Both Dr. Copper and the Burning Buck are telling me that the timing of the 1st hike from ZERO is sooner than consensus thinks. For the first time last night, all of my quantitative studies were flashing lower-highs in everything REFLATION (copper, SP500, BAC, RIMM, etc…), and this morning, for the 3rd day in a row, my models are registering a higher-low for US Dollar price support.
On the margin, that is bearish for things priced in Dollars. No, I’m not a raging US stock market bear now. I’m simply calling out changes on the margin as I see them. Here are three other factors to consider:
1.      Volatility (VIX): breaking out above my immediate term TRADE line of resistance at $24.96 (bearish for stocks)

2.      Volume: the last 2 days in my broad US equity volume studies have shown 26% and 31% spikes. Combined with market down days, that’s bearish.

3.      Japan: trading down -1.5% last night makes it the first major equity market to break both my TRADE and TREND lines. It’s still the world’s 2nd largest economy.

Is the Rottenness in the Global Financial System still there this morning? You tell me. Remember, everything rotten has a time and a clearing price – if there’s anything we have learned in the last +56.4 percentage points from the SP500’s lows, that’s it. My immediate term support and resistance levels for the SP500 are now 1040 and 1076, respectively. Yes, for the SP500, that’s a lower-high. Lower-highs, on the margin, have some rottenness that I don’t have to buy into.
Best of luck out there today,


EWG – iShares Germany
Chancellor Angela Merkel won reelection with her pro-business coalition partners the Free Democrats over the weekend. We expect to see continued leadership from her team with a focus on economic growth, including tax cuts. We believe that Germany’s powerful manufacturing capacity remains a primary structural advantage; with fundamentals improving in a low CPI/interest rate environment, we expect slow but steady economic improvement from Europe’s largest economy.

CAF – Morgan Stanley China Fund A closed-end fund providing exposure to the Shanghai A share market, we use CAF tactically to ride the more volatile domestic equity market instead of the shares listed in Hong Kong. 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. Although this process will inevitably come at a steep cost, we still see this as the best catalyst for economic growth globally and are long going into the celebration of the 60th Anniversary of the People’s Republic.


GLD – SPDR Gold We bought back our long standing bullish position on gold on a down day on 9/14 with the threat of US centric stagflation heightening.   

XLV – SPDR Healthcare We’re finally getting the correction we’ve been calling for in Healthcare. We like defensible growth with an M&A tailwind. Our Healthcare sector head Tom Tobin remains bullish on fading the “public plan” at a price.

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.

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. We believe that future inflation expectations are currently mispriced and that TIPS are a efficient way to own yield on an inflation protected basis, especially in the context of our re-flation thesis.

USO – US OIL Fund We shorted oil on 9/30. The three Fed Heads just put rate hike rhetoric right on the table. If the Buck stops Burning, Reflation stops working.

XLP – SPDR Consumer Staples Looking for low-beta short exposure to US Consumer spending. Consumer Staples short interest is low, and the stocks are over-owned.  

LQD – iShares Corporate Bonds
Corporate bonds have had a huge move off their 2008 lows and we expect with the eventual rising of interest rates that bonds will give some of that move back. Shorting ahead of Q4 cost of capital heightening as access to capital tightens.

DIA  – Diamonds Trust In the US, we want to be long the Nasdaq (liquidity) and short the Dow (financial leverage).

EWJ – iShares Japan While a sweeping victory for the Democratic Party of Japan has ended over 50 years of rule by the LDP bringing some hope to voters; the new leadership  appears, if anything, to have a less developed recovery plan than their predecessors. 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.

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.

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The Secretary for Transport and Public Works said that the Macau government is set to pay US$150 million for a 1.1 square kilometer plot of land leased from the Chinese municipality of Zhuhai, bordering Macau, for a 40-year period.  Macau already has jurisdiction over the land which is being fenced off so that the new campus of Macau University can be built.  Although situated on the Chinese mainland, the land will be under the jurisdiction and legislation of Macau and access to the campus will be via an underwater tunnel from Macau.


We were asked by a subscriber why we covered our Warnaco short so quickly. Let’s be clear…fundamentally, our retail team does not like this story. There are secular margin headwinds here, license loss risk, mediocre brand portfolio, limited cushion if things go south, and downright poor quality of management. As it relates to the stock, sell sentiment is quite high (80% of ratings are Buy), short interest is re-testing lows, and management is selling. To cap it off, yesterday there was a sell-side upgrade, which Keith shorted in to. I’m surprised that the stock is only off by 1.2% today given the big miss at Iconix (another questionable quality model that is tied to a licensing model) just 2 months after a secondary.  But we are mildly concerned about event risk into an analyst event WRC is hosting on Friday. What you see here is Keith managing risk around his TRADE duration (3 weeks or less). Just because he covered a TRADE for a gain, it does not mean that it is no longer on our bench as a fundamental short. It will take more than a few percent in the stock for that to happen. Unless the bottom falls out from under this stock very soon, my sense is that we will be more vocal on WRC in the not-too-distant that we will be more vocal on WRC in the not-too-distant future.