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NSC | Biased Sources

Takeaway:  The CP bid may have already created value for NSC by forcing NSC management to drive more efficient operations.  Performance metrics have already improved notably, with NSC velocity higher than CP’s in December.  While NSC shareholders should be very skeptical of both CP claims and bulge bracket analyst coverage, we also think that NSC management is giving an overconfident read on the regulatory hurdles.  We plan to ignore the biased NSC shouting and instead focus on the potential for improved operating performance, consolidation, or both.

 

 

 

Since our September NSC Long Black Book, shares of NSC have outperformed in what is an increasingly obvious industrial contraction.  The rail discussion has shifted from a bearish volume decline narrative to a bullish consolidation narrative.  Improved operating performance at NSC is underway, and we suspect the valuation premium associated with merger potential is unlikely to fade near-term.  While a long NSC position requires tolerance for tedious conference calls and headline driven volatility, we continue to expect the shares to perform well relative to a challenged sector.  Sure, fourth quarter coal volumes are going to be weak – anyone who has gone outside in North America can put that together; weak coal is why the shares are in the 80s instead of in the triple digits.  Market focus has already shifted to 2016 and beyond.

 

NSC | Biased Sources - NSC Velocity

 

 

CP & Ackman Bias:  While he gets some negative press, we think Bill Ackman’s participation in the rail industry of late is productive.  He deserves credit for helping the consolidation narrative. We agree with CP that NSC is an attractive asset, particularly in the mid-70s to low 80s, with significant potential to improve performance.  However, Ackman is also a smart and self-interested activist fund manager; NSC holders should view CP’s input with overwhelming skepticism.  Ackman is correctly pushing his book since that is his obligation; he is long CP, on the CP Board, and wants NSC on the cheap.  We can respect that.  But do we care what CP or Ackman says about a potential BNSF bid for NSC? Nope.  Are they about to bid for CSX? Probably not, and it wouldn’t necessarily be a negative for NSC long-term.  Is the CP offer “highly attractive”? Obviously not.  Do they present their bids with a misleading headline number? That is our take.  Is EHH the only person who can fix NSC?  No, and even he is pretty hot on his COO’s skill set.  We’ll stick to just the number, however structured and presented; the number is still too low.

 

 

“I think the analyst community can be very helpful in what you say and what you write.” - Ackman 12/8/15

 

 

Careful Trusting Bulge Bracket Analysts, Too:  Holders of NSC should also view traditional Street coverage with more skepticism than usual, as we see it.  First, the Street typically loves the volume, volatility, attention, fees and deals generated by a circus atmosphere.  Second, CP’s use of Street analysis in the deal valuation and suggestion that “the analyst community…weigh in” with the NSC Board (along with long calls that get analyst’s names in the transcript) could be viewed as a not-so-subtle effort to get the Street in line.  We’d love to hear the off-line conversations/pressure. 

 

 

“Let's look at analysts' estimates going again back to Citi, quote, based on our math, NS' target for a sub-65% OR in 2020 was largely priced into the valuation prior to CP's proposal …. So, if you want that plan, that's worth CAD 90 a share according to analysts' estimates. The stock is trading above that. You should sell your stock in NS.” Ackman 12/8/15

 

 

HLF Contradiction:  According to analyst estimates, HLF is worth $70 a share (12 month price target average).  By the above logic, shorts should cover…and get long HLF.  Also, we would point out that Street price targets for NSC were much higher last year, with the average at around $120.  Street valuations follow share prices, not the other way around.  We would be surprised if Mr. Ackman uses bulge bracket valuations for…well…pretty much anything in his fund’s investment decision-making.

 

 

“We estimate the total value of the stock and cash consideration to NSC shareholders to be worth $125 to $140 per share at the closing of the transaction in May 2016. The revised transaction offers a 37% to 53% premium to today's closing price of $91.52 and a 58% to 77% premium to the unaffected price of $79.14 per share.” – CP Press Release 12/8/15

 

 

Why NSC Rejected Bid, As We See It:  We believe the NSC Board has rejected the bid because the price is too low.  Efforts to obfuscate the bid by pitching the possible operating performance and synergies have not confused the market – CP is not bidding $125 + CVR or $140 + CVR.  They are instead guessing at how the market will value the combined company; we aren’t sure where a regulator would come down on that framing, but we note its absence from the press release today.  The addition of the CVR today adds a bit of value, but we think that it would take a bid in excess of, perhaps, $100 per share to get the NSC Board to take the risks of the proposed transaction with engagement.  If NSC goes the sale route, they would have an obligation to seek full and fair value, and to explore the potential other suitors.  No one knows how the regulatory process will play out; taking on additional regulatory scrutiny is not a good idea without a substantial reward.

 

 

What We Do See:   NSC management also has an agenda (keeping their jobs) and is probably overstating the challenges to the deal.  After all, no one really knows what the regulators will say – most likely including the regulators.  Management should encourage a higher offer to maximize shareholder value, and not much else.  But NSC management has one huge advantage – performance is dramatically improving.  We don’t really care if Mr. Squires was a lawyer or a pole-dancer as long as he improves NSC’s performance.  Speeds are soaring and dwell is plummeting – both are key to what Mr. Harrison is targeting for NSC.  Perhaps the best part of the CP bid is that it has forced NSC management to set long-term targets and move toward hitting them to keep their jobs.

 

NSC | Biased Sources - NSC Dwell

 

 

Upshot: The CP bid may have already created value for NSC by forcing NSC management to drive more efficient operations.  Performance metrics have already improved notably, with NSC velocity higher than CP’s in December.  While NSC shareholders should be very skeptical of both CP claims and bulge bracket analyst coverage, we also think that NSC management is giving an overconfident read on the regulatory hurdles.  We plan to ignore the biased NSC shouting and instead focus on the potential for improved operating performance, consolidation, or both.

 

 


MUST-SEE: 8 Cartoons Highlighting the Rate Hike Absurdity

With the Fed decision fast approaching, we thought it prudent to reiterate the absurdity of hiking interest rates into an economic slowdown. Hedgeye CEO Keith McCullough will host Fed Day Live today at 2:10 p.m. to dissect the FOMC statement. (Join us this afternoon by clicking here. It's free!) 

 

Instead of running through all the data to support our #GrowthSlowing theme (yet again), here's a "best-of" visual representation of sorts from Hedgeye Cartoonist Bob Rich. Enjoy!   

 

1. yellen & Co. Are confused about economic growth...

MUST-SEE: 8 Cartoons Highlighting the Rate Hike Absurdity - Rate hike cartoon 11.30.2015

 

2. the fed has its own rosy economic projections...

MUST-SEE: 8 Cartoons Highlighting the Rate Hike Absurdity - Rate hike cartoon 11.06.2016

 

3. dEFLATION AND SLOWING GROWTH are "TRANSITORY"?

MUST-SEE: 8 Cartoons Highlighting the Rate Hike Absurdity - rate hike cartoon 11.05.2015

 

4. our own reality-based measures suggest otherwise...

MUST-SEE: 8 Cartoons Highlighting the Rate Hike Absurdity - Rate hike cartoon 11.27.2015

 

5. SO WE AUDITED THE FED'S OWN FORECAST NUMBERS...

MUST-SEE: 8 Cartoons Highlighting the Rate Hike Absurdity - fed tightening noose

 

6. AND WOULDN'T YOU KNOW IT, THEY'RE WRONG 70% OF THE TIME...

MUST-SEE: 8 Cartoons Highlighting the Rate Hike Absurdity - Rate hike cartoon 09.04.2015

 

7. THE RISK? THE FED TIGHTENS INTO A SLOWDOWN today...

MUST-SEE: 8 Cartoons Highlighting the Rate Hike Absurdity - Rate hike Grinch 12.03.2015

 

8. you know where we stand. we'll see what happens at 2pm...

MUST-SEE: 8 Cartoons Highlighting the Rate Hike Absurdity - rate hike cartoon 12.04.2015

 


Macro Playbook Update: Keep Betting On #StrongDollar #GlobalDeflation

Takeaway: We remain firmly in the #StrongDollar, #GlobalDeflation camp, but are aware of the risks to overstaying our welcome.

Going into today’s likely rate hike there’s been a great deal of chatter throughout the investment community regarding the risk that the U.S. Dollar Index (DXY) actually peaks “on the news” and subsequently trends lower in the ensuing months.

 

We even took to discussing that risk in the second half of our 12/3 note titled, “Draghi Disappoints… Is This the Beginning of the “Great Unwind” of Consensus USD Longs?”; we strongly believe that analysis is worth your time to review. The following charts are arguably the two most noteworthy examples of the many Bayesian and Frequentist overlays we applied to our handicapping of the aforementioned market risk.

 

Macro Playbook Update: Keep Betting On #StrongDollar #GlobalDeflation - EXTREME POSITIONS MONITOR

 

Macro Playbook Update: Keep Betting On #StrongDollar #GlobalDeflation - DXY Historical Rate Hike Analysis

 

All factors considered, we do think it’s important to revisit why we got here. We’ve held intermediate-to-long-term bearish biases on the Japanese yen since 4Q12 and, except for a brief respite throughout 1H14, a similarly bearish TREND and TAIL outlook for the EUR since 1Q13. With the JPY down -32% over the past 3Y and the EUR down -19% over the past 18M, we would argue those have been good calls.

 

Kudos aside, our proprietary GIP Modeling process and quantitative risk management overlay leads us to conclude that it is appropriate to maintain our intermediate-to-long-term bearish biases on the EUR and JPY. Additionally, recent developments out of the PBoC and BoE support adopting similar biases on the CNY and GBP as well.

 

As such, it’s no surprise to see the DXY remain bullish from an intermediate-term TREND and long-term TAIL perspective on our quant factors.

 

Macro Playbook Update: Keep Betting On #StrongDollar #GlobalDeflation - DXY

 

Eurozone: The preponderance of Eurozone high-frequency growth data is confirming our extremely dour NTM outlook for Eurozone economic growth. Moreover, inflation remains well below the ECB’s +2% target from the perspective of reported data, 2016 economist expectations and long-term breakeven rates. Both Draghi and ECB Chief Economist Praet were out Monday reiterating a willingness to do more if needed. If our forecasts are proven correct, they will indeed find themselves doing a lot “more” at some point in 1H16.

 

Macro Playbook Update: Keep Betting On #StrongDollar #GlobalDeflation - Eurozone Economic Summary

 

Macro Playbook Update: Keep Betting On #StrongDollar #GlobalDeflation - EUROZONE

 

Japan: The preponderance of Japanese high-frequency growth data is confirming our dour near-term outlook for Japanese economic growth. While core inflation readings have been elevated relative to historic trends, they fall well shy of the BoJ’s +2% target. Moreover, we are picking up on chatter that falling inflation expectations per the 4Q Tankan Survey and long-term breakeven rates are giving BoJ board members cause for concern. While it’s unlikely they expand QQE coming out of their meeting tomorrow, we do think the timing of that catalyst has edged forward by a month or two. Specifically, we think BoJ monetary policy is most likely to get incrementally dovish at the APR 28th meeting in conjunction with a downward revision to their economic projections.

 

Macro Playbook Update: Keep Betting On #StrongDollar #GlobalDeflation - Japan Economic Summary

 

Macro Playbook Update: Keep Betting On #StrongDollar #GlobalDeflation - JAPAN

 

China: We’ve been pretty vocal about our outlook for a material, but managed depreciation of the CNY in recent weeks, most recently in our 12/11 note titled, “Our #EmergingOutflows Theme Accelerates Into “Liftoff””. We consider our 11/19 note titled, “Can Beijing Maintain Exchange Rate Stability Or Is the Chinese Yuan the Next Thai Baht?” to be required reading on that front as well. Key developments on that front include the PBoC’s explicit confirmation of both our structurally bearish outlook for the Chinese economy (phony accounting aside), as well as our view that Beijing intends to ensure the devaluation of the yuan will be as orderly as possible going forward.

 

Macro Playbook Update: Keep Betting On #StrongDollar #GlobalDeflation - China Economic Summary

 

Macro Playbook Update: Keep Betting On #StrongDollar #GlobalDeflation - CHINA

 

United Kingdom: Our interpretation of the state of and outlook for the U.K. economy is remarkably similar to that of the Eurozone (not surprising given the positive slope of GDP base effects in both economies) – with the noteworthy exception that long-term breakeven rates in the U.K. remain elevated from the perspective of the BoE’s +2% inflation target. Though said rates have tightened by a fair amount in recent months, the real boogeymen lending pause to Carney are historically depressed rates of both core CPI and PPI, as well as a dovish outlook for 2016 CPI among economists. We thought Carney’s commentary from this morning regarding conditions for a rate hike as being “unfulfilled” were quite telling in the context of the GBP/USD cross’ recent breakdown below its now TREND line of resistance at 1.54. The pound should continue to follow short-term GBP/USD swap spreads lower as U.K. growth data forces the BoE to back away from its hawkish guidance, at the margins.

 

Macro Playbook Update: Keep Betting On #StrongDollar #GlobalDeflation - U.K. Economic Summary

 

Macro Playbook Update: Keep Betting On #StrongDollar #GlobalDeflation - UNITED KINGDOM

 

United States: Our view on the outlook for U.S. monetary policy begins and ends with the politicization of the Federal Reserve – which remains out to lunch from the perspective of its economic forecasts and associated “dot plot”. As we penned in a detailed note yesterday titled, “Quantifying Why the Fed Is Wrong On Its Outlook For Inflation”, we think the Fed is conflating what we view as a short-lived trough in reported inflation with a sustainable bottom in structural inflation trends. As a result, there exists considerable risk that the Fed tightens policy and maintains an unwarranted tightening bias until it is too late (i.e. we still think a recession commences in/around mid-2016). By then it could be too late for Janet & Co. to react appropriately dovish in terms of handicapping the risk that the U.S. election cycle is decidedly anti Big Fed.

 

Macro Playbook Update: Keep Betting On #StrongDollar #GlobalDeflation - U.S. Economic Summary

 

Macro Playbook Update: Keep Betting On #StrongDollar #GlobalDeflation - UNITED STATES

 

Recall that our then-described “G3 policy divergence” theme has been the primary driver of our #StrongDollar #GlobalDeflation view – which itself is at the core of our long-held bearish biases on commodities (since AUG ’14), emerging markets (since APR ’13) and high-yield credit (since AUG ’14).

 

As such, with a TREND and TAIL bullish outlook on for the USD vis-à-vis peer currencies and the CRB Index hitting lows not seen since 2002 today, we find it appropriate to reiterate that theme, as well as key spillover effects – namely corporate profit and industrial recession globally.

 

Macro Playbook Update: Keep Betting On #StrongDollar #GlobalDeflation - S P 500 EPS

 

Macro Playbook Update: Keep Betting On #StrongDollar #GlobalDeflation - CRB vs. MSCI World EPS

 

Macro Playbook Update: Keep Betting On #StrongDollar #GlobalDeflation - CRB vs. World Gross Capital Formation

 

All told, we remain firmly in the #StrongDollar, #GlobalDeflation camp – largely because we think the ECB, BoJ, PBoC and now BoE are all likely to remain more dovish than the Fed, at the margins – but are well aware of the aforementioned Bayesian and Frequentist risks to overstaying our welcome. 

 

Our deep understanding of such risks leaves us in a good place to quickly make any eventual pivot to the #GlobalStagflation camp to the extent a macro market regime change is confirmed by our myriad of quantitative signals. That scenario remains the least probable within the band of probable outcomes, however.

 

Ex-Healthcare, which we are now decidedly bearish on as a firm, long live the #Quad4, #LateCycle playbook!

 

Best of luck out there,

 

DD

 

Darius Dale

Director


Hedgeye Statistics

The total percentage of successful long and short trading signals since the inception of Real-Time Alerts in August of 2008.

  • LONG SIGNALS 80.28%
  • SHORT SIGNALS 78.51%

They Are Who We Thought They Were | New Highs in Starts & Purchase Apps

Takeaway: Housing Starts & Permits made a new post-crisis high in November while MBA purchase apps are running +34% Y/Y.

“They are who we thought they were”

-          Dennis Green (Arizona Cardinals head coach), infamous rant

 

Today’s Focus:  November Housing Starts/Permits & MBA Purchase Apps

 

The current macro and housing cross-currents are many, the monthly data deluge is ceaseless and, at times, mind-numbing and the propensity for taking a myopic view of every incremental data point is acute -  so let’s take a step back:

 

STEPPING BACK: The housing recovery started almost a full three years after the broader recovery.  Inclusive of this morning’s Starts data, new single-family construction activity remains 34% below historical averages (and ~90% below average peak levels – remember, housing tends to be autocorrelated, running fully from troughs to peaks).  Affordability continues to favor ownership, the labor recovery is late-cycle but ongoing and the labor/income recovery in housing’s key demand demographic (20-40 year olds) has only recently matured beyond the 3Y mark and just begun to drive ownership, household formation and headship rates higher.  Lending is pro-cyclical and resi lending standards continue to ease while the regulatory pendulum, after hitting peak tightness in 2014, has begun to swing the other way with the credit box baby-stepping towards expansion.  Those dynamics continue to drive crawling but ongoing market normalization (↑ entry level demand, ↑ conventional mortgaged purchases, ↓ distressed/investor sales, etc) alongside the recovery in equity values and underwater/negative equity share. 

(Note: We’ll fully detail the opportunity & challenges facing the market in our 2016 Outlook and Themes call on January 8th)

 

Given that broader, prevailing reality, how would the Trend line in the housing data be expected to look?

 

Probably exactly like the trend line in the Single Family Starts activity below with construction continuing to stair-step higher.  In other words, it is what a common sense expectation of the cycle thought it would be.

 

Given the magnitude of mean reversion upside back to average levels of activity, how would one expect the MT/LT Trend line in construction activity to look from here?

 

Single family starts rose +7.6% MoM in November to +768K, accelerating to +15% YoY and marking the highest level of activity since January 2008. Single-family permits followed suit, rising +1.1% MoM, making a new 8-year high. 

 

On the multifamily side – which was responsible for last month’s headline decline (see:  Starts & Purchase Apps | Neither One Is As It Appears) - activity rebounded, rising +16.4% MoM and accelerating to +20% year over year. 

 

They Are Who We Thought They Were | New Highs in Starts & Purchase Apps - Starts SFl 3Y 

 

They Are Who We Thought They Were | New Highs in Starts & Purchase Apps - Starts   Permits SF LT

 

Purchase Applications: Purchase activity declined -2.8% on the latest week but at 221.7 on the Index, the elevated level of demand observed over the last 5-weeks persisted.  On a year-over-year basis, purchase demand accelerated to the fastest rate of growth YTD at +34% YoY with 4Q15 currently tracking

+3.4% QoQ and +25% YoY. 

 

 

Now that we’ve got you all bulled up, let’s handicap next week’s EHS release. 

 

November Existing Home Sales (reported next Tuesday, 12/22) will largely reflect October contract activity and Purchase Application demand was relatively soft in October following TRID's implementation. 

 

Further, the first evidence of any TRID related delays to closings would show up in the November EHS data - we don’t have any hard quant on the magnitude of impact but anecdotal commentary suggest some impact and the risk to the reported numbers is asymmetrically negative. There also exists some modest downside to a full-re-convergence with the trend in Pending Home Sales. 

 

It’s also worth noting that while the longer-term upside in new construction activity off still-depressed levels remains conspicuous, activity in the existing market has already mean reverted back above average historical levels. 

 

Volume growth in the 90% of the market that is existing sales should be more moderate with further market normalization, ongoing improvement in entry level demand, flow through demand from the rental market and credit box expansion anchoring incremental gains from here.

 

 

They Are Who We Thought They Were | New Highs in Starts & Purchase Apps - Compendium 121615

 

They Are Who We Thought They Were | New Highs in Starts & Purchase Apps - Purchase YTD Monthly

 

They Are Who We Thought They Were | New Highs in Starts & Purchase Apps - Purchase YoY

 

They Are Who We Thought They Were | New Highs in Starts & Purchase Apps - Purchase Index   YoY Qtrly

 

They Are Who We Thought They Were | New Highs in Starts & Purchase Apps - Purchase 2013v14v15

 

They Are Who We Thought They Were | New Highs in Starts & Purchase Apps - Purchase LT

 

They Are Who We Thought They Were | New Highs in Starts & Purchase Apps - Starts   Permits MF LT

 

They Are Who We Thought They Were | New Highs in Starts & Purchase Apps - Starts   Permits MF TTM

 

They Are Who We Thought They Were | New Highs in Starts & Purchase Apps - Starts   Permits SF LT

 

They Are Who We Thought They Were | New Highs in Starts & Purchase Apps - Starts   Permits SF TTM

 

They Are Who We Thought They Were | New Highs in Starts & Purchase Apps - Starts Total 3Y

 

They Are Who We Thought They Were | New Highs in Starts & Purchase Apps - Starts Total LT

 

They Are Who We Thought They Were | New Highs in Starts & Purchase Apps - 30Y FRM

 

 

 

About Housing Starts & Permits:

The US Census Bureau records the number of new housing units that have obtained permits for construction and those that have begun construction. This data includes new buildings intended primarily as residential units. The US Census Bureau defines a start as, “Start of construction occurs when excavation begins for the footings or foundation of a building.” 

 

 

About MBA Mortgage Applications:

The Mortgage Bankers’ Association’s mortgage applications index covers more than 75% of mortgage applications originated through retail and consumer direct channels. It does not include loans delivered through wholesale broker and correspondent channels. The MBA mortgage purchase applications index is considered a leading indicator of single-family home sales and construction. Moreover, it is the only housing index that is released on a weekly basis. 

 

Frequency:

The MBA Purchase Apps index is released every Wednesday morning at 7 am EST.

 

 

 

 

Joshua Steiner, CFA

 

Christian B. Drake

 


Another Round Of (Recessionary) Data? Hike Away Janet!

Takeaway: Today's data confirms our #GrowthSlowing Macro theme. But the Yellen Fed wants to hike interest rates anyway.

Another Round Of (Recessionary) Data? Hike Away Janet! - fed tightening noose

Fed Day has finally arrived.

 

We're pleased to announce that at 2:10 pm (directly following the FOMC decision) Hedgeye CEO Keith McCullough will host a live, unadulterated Q&A with viewers offering insight and analysis on what it all means for investors. 

 

Did we mention it's free? Click here to join him this afternoon.

 

Here's some food for thought while we wait with bated breath for our omnipotent central planners at Yellen & Co. to tell us precisely (or perhaps not so precisely) what the future path of interest rates will be.

 

Another Round Of (Recessionary) Data? Hike Away Janet! - mccullough production

Another Round Of (Recessionary) Data? Hike Away Janet! - indus 

Another Round Of (Recessionary) Data? Hike Away Janet! - treasury

 

Here's an excerpt from a note sent to subscribers earlier this morning written by Keith:  

 

"Rates both locally and globally, in 10yr Yields, are higher into the Fed hike event risk – 2.27% on the U.S. 10yr with an immediate-term risk range of 2.13-2.36%; Swiss 10yr +19bps month-over-month (off all-time lows) to -0.17%; Italian and German 10yr yields +11bps m/m."

 

Another Round Of (Recessionary) Data? Hike Away Janet! - yields

 

In related news, on "Fed Hike Into a Slowdown" day, the Bank of England's Mark Carney reversed his hawkish course saying the data has changed (so he will).

 

Another Round Of (Recessionary) Data? Hike Away Janet! - BoE

 

Carney was asked, by the Financial Times, about whether the prerequisite "conditions" had been fulfilled to raise rates:

 

"In an interview with the Financial Times, the BoE governor showed no sign of wanting to follow the Federal Reserve, which on Wednesday is widely expected to raise rates for the first time in nearly a decade. The Bank of England, rather, is focused on curbing excessive credit growth in a “low for long” interest rate environment, he said.

 

With little sign of inflation, Mr Carney said the priorities for the central bank were to increase the resilience of the banking system in the event of a downturn and reassess the safety of the buy-to-let lending market..." *Emphasis added*

 

Sound familiar? We've been warning subscribers about #LowerForLonger (rates) and #Deflation for a while now. So Carney is actually paying attention to the #GrowthSlowing data.

 

Meanwhile, everything the Fed didn't forecast in the past year (see deflation and slowing growth) is just "transitory." It all will pass, Yellen says. So why not hike interest rates?

 

Transitory? Hmm...

 

Remember today's Industrial Production numbers? 

 

Another Round Of (Recessionary) Data? Hike Away Janet! - industrial production info

Another Round Of (Recessionary) Data? Hike Away Janet! - industrial production 2

 

Or how about today's PMI Manufacturing Index Flash which slowed to 51.3, with new orders printing their slowest pace in more than two years? 

 

Not good... 

 

Hike away Janet!

 

Another Round Of (Recessionary) Data? Hike Away Janet! - Titanic 03.31.2014


Retail Callouts (12/16): Gary, Chip, Tory stirring up the pot -- some better than others.

Takeaway: Gary, Chip, Tory stirring up the pot -- some better than others. Buy RH, short LULU ahead of next blowup/CEO sack, Buy KATE into a big '16.

RH - Gary Crushed it on Cramer

We have to give Gary Friedman props for his approximately nine minute segment on Cramer last night. Let's face it, him going on what's arguably the most volatile and biased financial media platform in an unscripted way is not what we wanted to see.  The risk of fireworks was high. But he capped off a successful day RH (CFO and IR) had on the investor conference circuit by focusing on the real value drivers at RH -- growth in product concepts, and RH's real estate transformation.  The appearance was planned well before the earnings release, by the way, coinciding with a business-focused trip to NYC. All-in, it was a positive event for the stock.

 

LULU - Watch This Video. There's a Lot of Chip-isms here.

(http://www.bloomberg.com/news/videos/2015-12-14/lululemon-founder-i-thought-of-buying-under-armour)

 

Chip popped on Bloomberg to talk about his new venture with his wife and son -- Kit and Ace, but naturally the conversation focused entirely on the direction and problems at LULU. Chip held his tongue, most likely because of the gag order agreed upon when Advent bought half of his stake, and attributed LULU's problems to a 'culture problem'. You could argue that it was exactly this that got LULU into the mess it has found itself in the first place. Chip's belief that LULU was a talent incubator resulted in a management team that wasn't qualified to run a company with $12bn in market cap. And we are not convinced the new team in place today is much better.

Chip all but confirmed that he was pushed out by board politics, and we think the catalyst there was the hiring of Laurent Potdevin as CEO. He pushed for Laurent to be hired as CEO. The Board knew Laurent was unqualified, so Chip traded his Chairman title/power for the CEO appointment. That led to Wilson being effectively neutered on the Board, and to him selling his stock.

And yes, we stand by our statement that Potdevin will be fired within six months in conjunction with another blowup and restructuring for LULU.

Those are the biggest takeaways from the interview from where we sit, not the idea that LULU could/should have purchased UA. The thought that Kevin Plank would allow a deal like that to even be discussed when he has two-thirds of the voting stock is almost comical.

The video is actually worth a watch -- if for no other reason than to see the journalists ask the worst questions we've ever heard asked of an industry veteran.

 

TORY BURCH LAYS OFF 100 EMPLOYEES

(http://www.hollywoodreporter.com/news/style-notes-derek-zoolander-poses-848731)

 

This story is a few days old, but we got a few questions on it yesterday. So here's our take.  It's interesting to us that people view Tory Burch as a preeminent  brand in the luxury space. Consider this...the footprint of the brand was around $1.9bn last year. That compares to Michael Kors at nearly $9bn, and Coach at $7bn. Kate Spade was only $1.4bn in 2014. So yes, Tory is bigger than Kate -- for now.  Tory Burch's layoffs are just the culmination of issues it's been having with its business for 2-years...the same issues that led to hiring Roger Farrah (RL) as Co-CEO in late 2014. Our prediction -- KATE will surpass Tory Burch in size and profitability (forever) within two quarters.

 

TGT - Tech security firm says it's easy to hack Target gift registry apps

(http://www.startribune.com/tech-security-firm-says-it-s-easy-to-hack-target-gift-registry-apps/362582411/

 

Over the past 2+ years we've seen a collection of execution/security gaffes at TGT. Running through them in order... 1) Data breach in 2013. 2) e-commerce site malfunction during the Lily Pulitzer launch in April 2015. 3) e-commerce site malfunction during Cyber Monday 2015. 4) Gift registry app allows hackers access to personal information. Most of the issues have been centered on the e-comm channel and that's no surprise given that TGT didn't assume full control of the business until 2011 when it kicked its former partner AMZN to the curb. To catch up we think TGT needs invest heavily in this channel if it wants to grow this business at a 40% CAGR (something its been unable to do 2015 YTD). For context, WMT is spending $1.1bn on e-commerce investments in 2016 alone. With the closure of the CVS pharmacy deal announced today, the low hanging fruit for Cornell is all but gone.

 

TGT, CVS - CVS Health and Target Announce Completed Acquisition of Target’s Pharmacy and Clinic Businesses

(http://investors.target.com/phoenix.zhtml?c=65828&p=irol-newsArticle&ID=2123024)

 

AdiBok - Adidas sees +8% growth in sales in North America, two-digit growth in the following year. But Nike too good to be messed with

(https://epaper.handelsblatt.com/vhb_epaper_neo_p/?ticket=ST-161570-gM4eMV16XNbGsoQFIs2X-s02lcgiacc01.vhb.de#article/11/Handelsblatt/2015-12-16/1/5766838)

 

Prada Makes Adjustments Amid Slow Sales

(http://www.wsj.com/articles/pradas-net-profit-plunges-26-1450190933)

 

Rakuten to Set Up Shop on China’s JD.com

(http://www.wsj.com/articles/rakuten-to-set-up-shop-on-chinas-jd-com-1450258024)


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