Please join us Monday, May 23rd at 1PM ET for a call reviewing our Black Book on Best Idea Short Hanesbrands (HBI). CLICK HERE to watch this presentation live.
Confirmation Number: 13636869
Materials: CLICK HERE
Watch Live: CLICK HERE
We added HBI to our Best Ideas list as a short on May 2nd as recent acquisitions gave us higher conviction in our short positioning. This goes beyond the whole ‘peak margins, low cotton cost, in a weak category’ argument. But rather, a management team that was aggressive, but is now behaving in a borderline reckless manner. Management is aggressively selling stock while it uses shareholder capital to accelerate acquisition activity at increasingly high (and potentially deceptive) multiples at the tail-end of an economic cycle, as its own factories operate near peak utilization. These deals are supporting earnings, while the Street looks right through the special charges. That makes timing on this short difficult, but we’ll provide a roadmap in our Black Book. Ultimately, we see 40% downside from here.
Below is our note from 5/2 outlining our thesis.
05/02/16 09:19 AM EDT
HBI | This Doesn’t End Well
Takeaway: We’re adding HBI to our ‘Best Ideas’ Short list. When a company behaves this badly, no one wins.
We’re adding HBI to our Best Ideas Short list. We initially put this short on in late March (see note below), but the company’s actions since then have given us greater confidence in the call. Here’s our basic thinking (we’ll have a Black Book out on the name shortly with a deep dive).
1. This is not a bad business…but it’s not a good one. On the plus side, it’s highly consolidated on the brand side – with Hanes and Fruit of the Loom accounting for 24% share. On the flip side, distribution is even more consolidated with Wal-Mart, Target, Kohl’s, Penny, and (yes) Amazon accounting for ~70%. That might seem like a push, but we’d also argue that consumer trends are pushing towards the high end (Tommy John, Lululemon, UnderArmour, Nike). All in, the core is probably a 1% long term grower. Nothing to write home about. And unlike a CPG company, it is extremely volatile. A volatile 1%? Not where we want to be.
2. Margins are at peak. HBI’s own manufacturing plants account for roughly 65%. While the company guards these numbers closely, our sense is that utilization is likely running close to 90%. That’s actually to management’s credit, as they’ve got this engine running like a 911 Turbo. But where’s it going to go from here?
Most retail analysts don’t cover companies that actually own manufacturing assets. They all have offshore/outsourced models that lock in price, limit volatility, and make it such that the company has to worry only about design, sales and marketing. The point is that margins for these ‘other’ brands might move by 1-2 points in a year. But for a company like HBI that owns its own assets, we could see 4-5 point swings with no problem as demand shifts and factory utilization drops.
In the end, we ask the question…why should HBI have higher margins (15%) than VF Corp, PVH, Ralph Lauren, and even Nike? We should note that it’s about on par with Gildan, which interestingly is the only other major company that buys cotton directly in such quantities for use in company-owned plants.
3. The New ‘Jones’? No, we’re not talking about Hedgeye’s illustrious Daryl Jones, we’re talking about Jones Apparel Group – one of the worst companies in retail. Ever. And that says a lot. As its core rolled, Jones took capex down from 2-3% of sales to about 0.7%. That’s bad. It took shareholders’ capital and bought assets/brands – over 25 of them. Then it took special charges almost every quarter obfuscating the real earnings power of the company. It was a great trading stock until it ultimately went private at 30% of peak trading levels. We’re not certain this is where HBI is headed, but the parallels are uncanny.
4. Management is investing away from the core. Maybe this is an exceptional idea. Maybe they’re doing what VFC did a decade ago when grew away from its stodgy old slow growing denim business, and sold off its underwear assets. But VFC bought things like Vans, Timberland, Lucy and Eagle Creek. HBI is diversifying into…you guessed it – underwear (and moderate priced sports apparel). Just in other parts of the world. We have no reason to think this category will grow any more outside the US than inside its borders.
5. These deals are getting more expensive. HBI bought DB Apparel for 7.5x in 2014, Knights Apparel for 8x in 2015, and now both Champion Europe and Pacific Brands cost 10x EBITDA. Basically, HBI is trading at a 20% lower multiple (tho still expensive) than it was, but it’s deal multiples are 20% higher. Why?
6. Why didn’t HBI buy Pacific Brands a year ago at half the price? That’s kind of a rhetorical question. I have no idea what the answer is. But it’s a public company…it’s not like it ‘wasn’t for sale’, and it’s also not like ‘HBI wasn’t a buyer’. Just strange to pay nearly $400mm more for the same asset. That could have otherwise paid down 18% of debt, or bought back 3% of the float.
7. 2 and 20 is Back! Did we mention that HBI announced two acquisitions in 20 days? One in Europe, and the Other in Australia? I’m sorry, but even if you’re the biggest bull on this name, you’ve gotta be scratching your head over this. Yes, I know, the stock was up on both deals, because people know that the company now has a cookie jar to dip into for a year or two. But we’ll bet against two international deals/20 days any day of the week when we’re at the tail end of an economic cycle.
The Bottom Line
We think it’s absurd for a stock like HBI to trade at an EBITDA multiple in the teens. An EARNINGS multiple? Sure. But not EBITDA. We understand, however, that this is the type of name where there will need to be a major event to make people completely revalue the company – the way it did so on the upside as it repaired its balance sheet over the past two years. But until then, will we see the multiple push to 14x, 15x? We have a hard time with that one – unless we’re grossly underestimating a) how much juice it can squeeze out of the lemon in Australia, or b) the sustainability of its positioning in the US market. If we’re right, we’re looking at 7-8x EBITDA, and we’d argue that’s even generous. That’s a stock in the mid-teens, or 50% downside.