Takeaway: This story doesn’t get interesting again till we get closer to 2016. But the bigger question now is whether mgmt can stave off Chapter 11.
WTW: Chapter 11?
02/27/15 08:46 AM EST
Let us know if you have any questions or would like to discuss in more detail.
Hesham Shaaban, CFA
Takeaway: We think that the long-term call is absolutely on track, and that KATE’s 1Q results should be another milestone on the way to $75
We think that the long-term call is absolutely on track, and that KATE’s 1Q results on Thursday should be another milestone on the way to $75. As the company doubles its sales base over the next three years while taking margins from 11% to 19%, generating $3+ in earnings power. Sales and margins trends look in-tact over the near term as the US e-comm trends looked solid even with the pullback in Flash events. And, margins stand to benefit from the elimination of stand-alone Jack/Saturday stores and the shift of the ‘Friends and Family’ from 1Q14 into 2Q this year.
We’re Above Consensus. We think that management was being overly cautious with its targets for 2015. There are so many levers in this model, and our sense is that the company downplayed them. KATE guided to $185mm-$200mm in EBITDA for the year – assuming the top end of revenue guidance, that’s 15.7%, or about flat on a year/year basis (adjusting for the Jack/Saturday dilution). But we’re modeling $237mm, or about 110bp higher than last year. That’s about 65% EBITDA growth for the year, a number we expect to moderate only slightly to 50% the year after.
Quite frankly, we like the company’s conservatism, as it will keep expectations grounded, and mitigate the likelihood of an earnings day sell-off, which happens too often for KATE to call it a coincidence.
What’s It Worth? So that begs the question as to what we should pay for KATE. By the end of this year, we’ll be eyeing about $345mm in EBITDA and $1.30 in EPS. When looking at the 50% and 100% growth rates in EBITDA and EPS, respectively, we could definitely argue a big multiple. On the flip side, this is a fashion business, and there will almost certainly be a time (like KORS is experiencing now) where it will see multiple compression as it matures. But keep in mind that KORS has a brand footprint of $6.4bn and EBIT margins of 30%. KATE has a $1.4bn footprint (smaller that Tory Burch at $1.9bn) and margins of only 11%. It will be a long time before we have to ask the ‘is it over’ question. Until then, we think the multiple will continue to defy gravity in the eyes of anyone that’s not a growth investor.
For argument’s sake, let’s keep the forward multiples in place that KATE has today – 50x earnings and 19x EBITDA. We think that there’s upside this year as the company beats. But on 2016 numbers we’re looking at 50x $1.32 = $66, or 19x EBITDA in the mid-50s. Roll ‘em to ’17 and you get to over $2+ in earnings power, or around a $75 stock.
1) This is perhaps the most polarizing number we will see during the print on Thursday. While we usually don’t play the near-term comp game, let’s strap the accountability pants on for KATE management. It guided 1Q14 high-teens, 4Q at 8-14% and the full year at 10-13%, and printed 29%, 28% and 24% for each quarter and the year respectively. The company’s initial guidance for the year calls for HSD comps improving sequentially throughout the year. We should see a typical KATE print, sales coming in ahead of expectations followed by a guidance raise.
2) For the quarter we are at a 10% comp, and will be very surprised if we see anything in the single digits. More details on the math behind our assumption and the two controversial areas below…
a) E-Comm – The company continued on its planned pull back on ‘Flash Sales’. Similar to 4Q14, the company hosted 2 ‘Flash Sales’ compared to 3 in the prior year’s quarter. In 4Q14 the company posted dot.com sales growth of ~45%-55% depending on the aggregate weight of the segment. In the quarter, e-comm alone would support 5% comp growth assuming it is a) 25% of the business in 1Q, b) grows at 20%, and c) Brick and Mortar comps are flat. If we ratchet e-comm comps up to 25% holding all other assumptions the same, it would get us to a 6.3% comp for the quarter.
b) Japan – Due to the 37% comp KATE Japan posted in 1Q14 ahead of the country’s consumption tax hike from 5%-8%, management cited this as one of the main reasons for the guided sequential slowdown in comp trends. But given the size of the business (12% - 15% of total revenue) we’re not overly concerned about the potential headwind. Let’s say that comps in quarter are flat, which would imply a 300bps deceleration on the 2yr trend line, and sales growth for the rest of the company was 20%. We are looking at 360bps of headwind to the company average. Or, bear case, Japan is down 10% we are looking at 540bps of dilution. Realistically, let’s assume that the 2-year run rate stays even with 4Q levels – even though it is actually trending higher. A 6% Japan comp would imply a 22% 2-year trend (flat sequentially). That suggests 250bps of sequential headwind on a consolidated basis.
c) Our algorithm consists of a few parts. Organic growth ex. Japan and Jack/Saturday of 13.5%. Japan down 3%. Which gets us to 10% comp growth. That’s broken into e-comm growth of 20% (~25% of the consolidated revenue base) and B&M comps of 6.7% down from the 21% we saw in 4Q14.
1) Gross Margins: The way we see it, the combination of Jack/Saturday caused 130bps of dilution in FY14 from inventory write off charges alone. The company will get all of that back in ’15. With the additional benefit of shedding free standing Jack/Saturday doors which were operating well below the company average.
a) For the quarter, the company is comping against a 150bps decrease in Gross Margin as the company moved its ‘Friends and Family event’ into 1Q14 to pull forward sales lost to a late-April Easter that fell in 2Q14 last year. The company did not repeat the sale in 1Q15 this year. That should more than offset any headwinds from Fx or occupancy related to the newly converted Juicy outlet doors.
2) In total we get to operating margin expansion of just over 300bps, with the majority driven by SG&A leverage with 100bps of Gross Margin expansion. Add on the $12mm in estimated D&A cost gets us to an adjusted EBITDA margin of 11.3%.
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NDLS delivered a dreadful 1Q15 print and a similarly disappointing outlook for 2015. Management did very little on the call to dissuade our thoughts that NDLS should not be growing – at all. Until they realize this, and scale back growth, the stock will be a short.
Painful performance. NDLS reported system-wide SSS of +0.9%, well short of the consensus estimate of +1.4%. This comp underperformance drove top and bottom line misses of $2.7 million and $0.02, respectively. To put the severity of this comp underperformance into perspective, Black Box reported 1Q15 comp sales of +3.0%. We’d typically expect and emerging fast casual concept to lead this benchmark. To wit, Potbelly delivered +5.5% same-store sales growth in the first quarter! We’d note that majority of the same-store sales disappointment stems from three problem markets: Colorado, the DC Metro Area, and Austin. Excluding these three markets, same-store sales grew +3.2% for the quarter. Management guided down full-year same-store sales guidance from 2.5-4% to low single digits and EPS growth guidance from 20% to 0%.
Established markets are a problem too. In the past, we’ve harped on Noodles’ inability to effectively enter new markets. Specifically, we question management’s restaurant expansion strategy that was more heavily weighted to newer markets than existing. New markets, and the subsequent lack of brand awareness, have consistently been the culprit for poor same-store sales performance in the past.
Now management is blaming the weakness on established markets, particularly Colorado and Austin, that are both comping negative year-to-date. Remarkably, despite being in the Colorado market for more than 20 years, the team conceded that they must bring more top of mind awareness here. With the addition of the DC Metro Area, these three markets (dubbed the problem markets) account for approximately 30% of all Noodles locations. We were previously solely concerned about new markets as opposed to existing; now we have reason to worry about both.
Initiatives underway to right the ship, but are they enough? Management believes it has the initiatives in place, both on the operational front (throughput and deployment initiatives) and marketing front (branding, marketing, and promotional work), to reaccelerate comps in 2H15. Marketing spend will ramp from 0.4% of sales in 1Q15 to 1% in the latter half of the year and should provide a little boost to sales, but this is far from a solution to the brand’s current struggles. Quite frankly, these initiatives are not the panacea the Noodles needs. If management doesn’t halt its unit growth strategy and hone in on operations, they will continue to destroy significant value.
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