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HBI: A ‘Do Nothing’ Stock

 

Near term visibility is good, and momentum picking up. But the company should be paying down debt instead of taking acquisitions. Also, we need to bank on seamless production out of new Asia plant and a healthier US consumer to offset headwinds 3 quarters out. Translation = do nothing…for now.

 

Overall, we’re no more or less inclined to own HBI in the wake of its 4Q. Is business getting better? Yes. Inventories are cleaning out while sales accelerate and margins appear healthy. Cash flow looks good – to the point where management is starting to mention ‘the A’ word’ (acquisitions).   The fact that it can think about acquisitions is good, but actually conducting them is not. Let’s face some facts here, HBI has too much debt in a commodity business that is undergoing a massive offshoring change while we’re seeing the greatest Macro cross currents in – well, just about ever. Let’s pay down some debt boys.  Earnings over the next 2-3 quarters look good, as higher cotton costs seem to be offset by previously announced cost cuts. But by 4Q, cotton exposure remains, and we need to bank on the Nanjing textile facility (which started up in 4Q) to be a fully ramped contributor to the business in order to give certainty for 4Q and 2011. In the meantime, the stock is not particularly cheap at 11x earnings and 8x EBITDA based on F10 estimates. For now, this is a ‘do nothing’ stock.

 

 

HBI 4Q FY09 Earnings Call

 

Quarterly Highlights:

  • Reaffirmed 2010 outlook
  • 5% sales growth
  • FCF of $300mm+
  • EPS 25%-35% growth yy
    • Strength in Innerwear - sell-throughs up end of Dec and in first 3 weeks of Jan
    • Pricing likely if cotton stays above $0.70

 

P&L Notables:

  • Sales down 4.5% (up 1% excluding 53rd week in F08) reflecting:
  • Innerwear +5%
    • Innerwear retail sell-through was flat for the quarter: slightly down in Nov, turned positive in Dec with the last two weeks particularly strong, seeing slightly positive sell-through for the first three weeks of Jan.
    • Direct to consumer +5%
    • International +2%
    • Hosiery -1%
    • Outerwear -6% 
  • Gross margins up 181bps reflecting:
    • price increase, cost savings initiatives, and lower cotton costs
    • more than offset the $13 million in incremental trade spending
  • Cotton costs for the fourth quarter was $0.47 per pound, ~$18 million benefit
    • Expect cotton costs to be $0.52 in Q1; $0.59 in Q2; and $0.73 in Q3 (should be able to offset with cost red.)
    • If cotton stays in mid-$0.70 in 4Q of 2010 - pricing in play as they have done before  
  • SG&A up 1.5%up 140bps yy reflecting:
    • Media + incremental $4mm ($10mm higher than last year)
    • $9mm benefit from cost savings offsetting $9mm in pension exp. 
  • Tax rate reduced to 12%, due to a higher mix of offshore profit
    • primarily as a result of domestic restructuring charges and the fourth quarter debt refinancing costs
    • Income tax rate, excluding actions, in 4Q was 3% 

 

  • Nanjing textile facility started production in Q4 and is right on plan
    • plant takes 18 months from start to be up to full production
    • will see impacts beginning in Q4 10 and all thru 2011 
  • Haiti is causing some short-term disruption in incremental costs - will not have a material impact on growth 
  • If inflation becomes systemic, strong brands give HBI the ability to price
  • Have already seen prices move in the industry and this trend may continue  
  • Beginning to think about acquisitions much more seriously and will share thoughts on criteria, priorities, and timing in February
    • Target acquisition price between $100mm and $300mm, must be domestic due to credit term  
  • Direct-to-consumer was previously included in innerwear chg'd with HBI’s strategy to drive retail sales with both the Hanes and Champion brands
    • Direct to Consumer in 2009: 1Q = $38 mil; 2Q = $49mm; 3Q = $53mm; 4Q = $48mm

 

Balance Sheet:

  • Inventory down $242mm (18.7%)
  • Paid down $284 million of debt despite cash outlays of ~$75 mm related to refinancing
  • Flex in leverage covenants - no restrictions on domestic acqs. Or share buyback
  • Pushed debt maturities out to 2013 to 2016

 

 

Outlook:

FY2010:

  • Sales growth of approximately 5% due to shelf space gains
  • Began shipping the new retail programs for 2010: These programs should result in 5% sales growth or approximately $200 million
  • Space gains should generate sales growth of approximately 6% in the 1H and 4% in the 2H
    • If consumer spending picks up, there could be upside to the 4% 2H est.
    • 2 months with the largest increase are March and April
    • growth by quarter is challenging because $20 million to $25 million can easily shift between months
    • By segment, 2/3 of the increases are to come from innerwear, and most of the remainder in outerwear
      • Innerwear gains will come from men’s underwear and intimate apparel. The new programs in men's underwear have already begun to ship, with the new intimate apparel program starting to ship in Q2.
      • Outerwear segment growth will be driven by the expansion of Just My Size in 1H. In 2H, Champion has confirmed space and distribution gains in fleece, performance apparel and sports bras across a broad set of accounts. Production capacity has increased to support growth
      • Both direct-to-consumer and international businesses should also see mid-single-digit growth and both have the most long term growth potential.
      • The remaining growth in the back half of the year will be driven by replenishment of these new programs
  • Goal to improve OMs 50 to 100 bps through costs savings (even with potential commodity price inflation), SG&A savings, and pricing
  • Goal to partially restore media spending from $80mm in 2009, to $90mm in 2010 and eventually back to historical $100mm
    • Interest expense should decline $20 million to $25 million
    • EPS growth of at least 25% and up to 35% or more in 2010
    • To reach the higher levels, HBI will need a little help from the consumer, possibly a little price, and an effective use of the potential $300mm or more of cash flow (domestic acquisitions)
      • See the potential for over $300 million in free cash flow
      • Expect tax rate to be in the 20% to 25% range for 2010 

 

Q&A:

 

  • Top line guidance: “feeling really good about 2010 and growth” retailers are in line right now, and increase in consumer spending would result in more inventory demanded by retailers 

 

  • Late 3rd quarter, early 4th quarter potential acquisition. 100 million to 300 million purchase price, not in negotiations, but looking out for the year

 

  • Era of apparel deflation is over, expect inflation, summer or by 4Q will see pricing take effect

 

  • Nanjing plant doesn’t contribute to production until the back half of the year, the process takes 18 months to get fully running and will only begin to see impacts of supply chain at the very end of 2010.

 

  • Great global low cost supply chain and can leverage it with adding volume from acquisitions
  • Small acquisitions of a couple million dollars are definitely possible and HBI is actively seeking it

 

  • Price increases: starting to see this and could raise prices in the back half of 2010, competitors are increasing prices which are matching HBI’s price increase from last year.  Men’s underwear industry pricing: Fruit of the Loom is $0.50 lower than HBI, private label is $0.50 cheaper than Fruit of the Loom. Oil and Asian wage pressures are potential risks that management is focused on for cost push inflation.  Relative to competition, HBI is very comfortable going forward if apparel industry experiences moderate cost inflation. Mix is favorable in 2010 with innerwear increasing.  Mix is one way to offset inflation cost pressures.   

 

  • Consumer Spending: watch weekly sell thru, inner wear category is their best read on the consumer, saw inner wear stabilize in September, weak in November, strong in December, especially on the back end.  1st 3 weeks of January are slightly positive, appears to be maintining the positive momentum from December.  Summer and beyond is when they are “hopeful” of consumer spending really pick up.  Starting to see a small but noticeable shift from low tier department store sell thru to mid-high tier, not a large move, but consumers are starting to pay up a tiny bit.

 

  • Shelf space gains: Good strong positive momentum. “Momentum breeds momentum.”

 

  • Long Term Growth Rates: will discuss in February at investor day conference

 

  • Gross Margin: additional volume increases will leverage supply chain, but management said to wait until February for more comments there

 

  • Strong shares in mid tiers, mass, and department stores: JCP taking men’s underwear for the first time, any channel shift is not a disadvantage because they have about equal share in mid tier and mass.

 

  • Categories: international and direct to consumer business are the 2 categories with the most room to grow long term. 

 

  • 8% of sales is traditional department stores, Macys is an opportunity, in JWN with hosiery

 

  • 5% revenue guidance is due to the space gains HBI has to make, if there is consumer spending gains that will be to the upside. 

 

  • Cap ex is much smaller than it ever has been because they have built out so much over the time.

 

  • Haiti: 2 buildings are structurally sound, 3,200 employed, 2,000 back today, 40% levels back up, will recover by early March, other plants across multiple hemispheres stepped up to cover the difference so there was no material impact.  Flow of goods is functioning out of a different port for the short term.  Only t-shirt production occurred in Haiti and only 5% of total sales.  Donated $2 mil of product to Haitians to aid the situation.

 

HBI: A ‘Do Nothing’ Stock - HBI S 1 10


GREECE: A VICTIM OF RUMORS?

It was not until it was too late that most people realized Dick Fuld was out of touch with reality.  As late as September 10, 2008, days before Lehman’s bankruptcy on September 15, Dick Fuld proclaimed Lehman was solvent and fully capitalized. 

 

Fact is, Mr. Fuld was not accountable, and had a laundry list of excuses, from naked short sellers, to credit rating agencies, to credit default swaps and the rumor mill.  The sad reality is, he probably thought that the then Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson would bail him out since he was bailing out AIG.

 

As we’ve been focused on over the last weeks, Greece CDS swaps are blowing out to the up side, while just today Prime Minister George Papandreou said Greece is being victimized by “rumors” in financial markets.  Further, he’s on the tape denied that Greece is seeking to borrow from the European Union to finance the country’s budget deficit.  While suggestions of international assistance are, according to the Prime Minister, “unfair”, I’m sure Dick thought the same thing....

 

Greece, which has a culture of levering debt upon debt that dates back centuries, is dealing with a credibility issue in a period of weak GDP (see chart below), which only further exacerbates its leverage issues as the government is hampered with cutting spending while attempting to stoke growth. Greece’s budget deficit is at 12.7% of GDP (four times the EU’s limit), as European Central Bank president Trichet says he’s “confident” that Greece will fix the problem.

 

We’re less confident in Greece’s leadership to fix the problem and are calling this spade for what it is, a sovereign debt crisis in the making.

 

Howard Penney

Managing Director

 

Matthew Hedrick
Analyst

 

GREECE: A VICTIM OF RUMORS? - GR1

 

GREECE: A VICTIM OF RUMORS? - GR2

 


UA: Guidance is Too Low

Is it me, or is UA’s guidance starting to look very Nike-esque? That’s not a bad thing, by the way. This was a solid quarter all around, right in line with what we were looking for. What we were not expecting is for the company to raise EPS guidance – even slightly. There were definitely puts and takes – as there always are. But sales UP 24% with inventories DOWN 19%? Man, if that does not set the stage for a positive gross margin setup as 2010 progresses, then I don’t know what does. They guided to ‘no SG&A leverage’ which is typical Nike behavior when it wants to keep numbers at bay. Lastly, they continue to play down footwear in 2010 as Gene McCarthy builds up his organization and product flow throughout the year for a larger launch in 2011. Does he do himself ANY justice setting unbeatable targets with Kevin Plank and shareholders in his first nine months on the job? I think not.  

 

The bottom line here is that we sold UA from our portfolio in advance of the quarter. But that was purely based on near-term overbought factors. If numbers shake out over the next day or two to be in line with guidance ($1.02-$1.04), then this name goes right back up there on my list of favorite names. They’ll earn $1.15 or better.

 

 

 

Quarterly Highlights

  • EPS: $0.30 vs. street $0.25, guidance $0.22-$0.24
  • Raised outlook to the higher side of previous guidance: 10% - 12% revenue and EPS growth
  • Apparel wholesale and consumer direct were the leading growth drivers of Q4 and will be for 2010
  • Positioning footwear to not contribute to growth in 2010, basketball shoe launch in 2011
  • Suggesting Gross Margins will grow every quarter in 2010 while SG&A will grow faster than sales for the balance of 2010

P&L Notables

  • Revenue growth was 24% for 4Q, a sequential improvement on 1yr but a significant slowdown on the 2yr (lowest runrate in history of company).  2 year fell to 13% vs. the high teens low 20s average of 2009.  Sales compares are difficult in Q1 10, Q3 10, and Q4 10, but are easy in Q2 10.  Guidance of 10% - 12% growth 2010.

 

  • Apparel: Q4 posted 26% growth, a large sequential increase, but a 20 bps slowdown on the 2yr.  Looking forward Q1 10 and Q3 10 have easy compares, Q2 10 is a slightly more difficult compare. 

 

  • Footwear: Q4 posted -5%, a large sequential decline on the 1yr and 2yr trends.  Footwear fell as a % of sales from 5.1% of Q4 08 to 3.9% of Q4 09.  Footwear is 16% of the company in 2009 vs. 12% in 2008.  Looking forward Q1 10 and Q3 10 face very difficult compares of +100% growth. Running launch began in the last weeks of March in 2009 so Q1 10 compare will be most difficult. 

 

  • Accessories: grew 24% in Q4, a sequential increase on the 1yr but a slow down on the 2yr.  Looking forward compares are very easy in Q1 and Q2 2010 while the 2H 10 have difficult 20%+ compares. 

 

  • License: Q4 revenue grew 18%, and acceleration in growth on the 1yr and massive acceleration on the 2yr.  Looking forward Q1 10 has an easy compare and then compares are difficult going forward. 

 

  • Gross Margin: Q4 grew 64bps which was a nice sequential 1yr and 2yr improvement.  Compares are easy from Q1 through Q3 of 2010 with Q1 10 and Q3 10 being the easiest.
    • Strong revenue growth in higher margin channel of direct to consumer and shift in mix towards more apparel which has higher margins grew margins for Q4.

 

  • SG&A: grew 28.1% in Q4 09 which was in line with the 2 year trends of previous quarters.  SG&A margin grew 128 bps which was a sequential decline on the 1 year trend, but a sequential increase  on the 2yr.  Marking expenses were slightly lower than we expected them to be at 10.8% sales.  Looking forward SG&A margin has difficult compares in 1H 10 with Q1 10 being the most difficult compare. 
    • SG&A growth driven by continued expansion of factory house stores and higher personnel costs

 

  • Operating Margin declined 64 bps in Q4 to 12.1%, marked a 2 year decline of 202bps which was a large sequential decline from Q3 09. 

 

Balance Sheet and Cash Flow Items

  • Inventory at quarter end decreased 19%
  • Total cash and cash equivalents increasing over $85 million year-over-year to $187 million at year end.
  • No borrowings outstanding on the $200 million credit facility.
  • Net accounts receivable decreased 2% on a year-over-year basis as a result of conservative approach to credit terms during 2009, strong efforts from collections team, and direct to consumer business was a higher percentage of overall business.
  • Enhanced and expanded currency hedging strategy significantly reduced our Exposure to foreign currency fluctuations during the fourth quarter and the full year
  • Cap Ex was $25 million compared with $41 million in 2008. Previous outlook was for 2009 CapEx to be in the range of $30 million to $35 million.  

Additional Callouts  

  • The largest percentage of distribution growth in 2010 will come from existing wholesale partners through a combination of new doors and increased dedicated space within existing doors.
  • Added depth to the women's team across all functions working on bringing the right fit, the right colors and cohesive merchandising to women's line in 2010.
    • Expansion of women's business: goal is to rival their men's business, have momentum in women's apparel and expect it to continue in 2010, increased understanding of the female athlete, development of the Under Armour fit, the evolution of merchandise flow, and the support of retail partners will help gain floor space
  • Direct consumer business was a key driver of 2009 growth and will be a key element of our 2010 distribution expansion strategy. 53% growth in direct to consumer in Q4.
    • The second piece of UA’s distribution expansion is direct to consumer, continue to expand brand's access to new customers, direct to consumer allows UA to control and influence the presentation at retail. Factory house outlet stores have been a great inventory management tool
    • Goal to open 15 new stores to bring outlet stores from 35 in 2009 to 50 in 2010.
  • Need to invest capital, both human and financial to fully leverage the Under Armour opportunity in footwear. UA is not reliant on footwear to grow the topline in 2010.  Taking a more conservative approach to footwear revenue. 3 goals for the footwear business in 2010:
    • Strengthen existing categories, particularly cleats. UA expects to take market share in both football and baseball cleats in 2010 and beyond. Plans for double digit growth in cleats
    • Repositioning training and running categories with better organization to develop product that will drive multibillion dollar global brand
    • Developing new footwear categories that will begin to impact our business in 2011 and beyond. No major footwear launch planned for 2010. But developing basketball footwear and positioning for a future launch. Under Armour basketball footwear will not be for sale at retail, it is being tested and authenticated throughout 2010 on the feet of 10 division 1 basketball programs, more than 20 top high school programs, and NBA rookie of the year contender Brandon Jennings.
  • In July UA will be outfitting Boston college's athletic program.
  • UA is the official sponsor of the NFL Combine held in Indianapolis at the end of next month, outfitting every player head to toe in Under Armour and we will be telling our brand story during the NFL draft in April which this year will be held in prime time
  • Teaming up with ING performance to host Athlete Combines at regional sites across the country: host 50+ Combines touching thousands of young athletes showcasing the Under Armour brand as well as new products in categories from footwear.
  • Developing a comprehensive athletic training platform that will establish a global measurement standards for improved sports performance, health, and fitness called Combine 360. Hope Combine 360 will be as universal for athletic performance as the SAT score is for academics.
  • Will use these grass root platforms to launch key products for the brand like the upcoming Under Armour Core Short (a patented compression short with an iconic X type design that stretches across the body which stabilizes and supports muscles and core) and will be available at retail beginning this spring.
  • UA is the official uniform supplier for the US bob sled team and the free style ski team (including UA athlete Lindsay Vaugh)

 

Outlook

  • Raised the low end of previous outlook and anticipate 2010 annual net revenues in the range of $145 million to $160 million, an increase of 10% - 12% in 2009.
  • 2010 EPS to grow in line with net revenue growth, $1.02 - $1.04
  • Expect topline growth in 2010 to be fueled by continued strength in direct to consumer as well as higher growth in our US wholesale apparel channels.
  • Planning footwear revenues to be down in 2010 with the most significant dollar impact occurring in the first and third quarters. Focus for footwear to continue to excel in the cleated categories while taking a conservative approach to the running and training categories to better position for new product in 2011.
  • Gross margins are planned to improve in all four quarters of 2010 over 2009 from partnerships in apparel and continued growth in higher margin sales and direct to consumer
  • Operating Expenses expected to exceed topline growth in 2010
    • invest in marketing in the range of 12% to 13% of net revenues, marketing may be a little more skewed towards the 2H because of easy 1H compares with running launch
    • will continue to invest in direct to consumer particularly around factory house and global direct online
    • product innovation supply chain team build out  and continue innovative design and
    • will increase investments in information technology around analytical tools to support long term growth
  • Effective tax rate in 2010 to improve approximately 50 basis points from the 2009 rate to 42.7% 43
  • Fully diluted weighted average shares outstanding of approximately 51.1 million to 51.3 million for 2010.
  • Cap Ex for 2010 expected to be in the range of $35 million to $40 million.

 

Q&A

  • Channel Growth: Gaps in distribution present opportunities for growth.  Direct to consumer will fill the remaining gaps.  Example of UA uniquely filling some gaps can be seen in the Pacific Northwest where many bankruptcies have occurred (Joe’s Sporting Goods). Partnering with Fred Meyers to in the Pacific Northwest only (not a broad national opportunity).  Still great opportunity to reach athletes in malls and will continue to work on that in 2010. No plans to open additional full price stores but can see a time in which full price specialty rollout will help add yet another lever to solve the distribution gaps

 

  • European distribution: UA is proud of European achievement so far.  Working hard in Europe and Asia to achieve brand equity with athletes on the field.

 

  • Footwear Focus: Remain absolutely committed to footwear, see momentum, repositioning footwear to make sure they are spending time.  2010 is about being excellent in categories where UA already has existing strength. Big coming out party for UA in 2011. Not going to see a drastically different presentation of footwear at retail in 2010. Going to be taking a fresh look at training and really bolster that category and the same thing in running

 

  • Outlet product offerings and return on investment: Different product in outlet channel vs wholesale, but the outlets will still have top notch product. Direct to consumer in total is one of UA’s best return on invested capital models  with factory house as a very strong return on invested capital. Factory house has higher gross margins on the overall business but also have increased selling, general and administrative expenses to run those stores. Overall outlets are a positive for operating margins

 

  • Product, Channel, and Category Growth:
    • Future bookings see strong growth in apparel business through new products, additional doors, and additional floor space. 
    • Partners are in a very healthy inventory position. Men’s, women’s, and kids are all growing well and will grow substantially throughout the year. 
    • Women’s will continue to lead the pack for growth followed by youth and men’s.
    • Expanded apparel from compression to fitted, semi fitted, loose fit.  Understanding compression gives UA the capability to develop great loose fitting products as well. People are smarter about layering and it’s a new phenomenon, people don’t just go out with a big coat, they are smarter about their clothing choice and they demand better apparel products.

 

  • Gross Margins: direct to consumer was  a big upside, 70bps of upside in Q4.  Footwear is lower margins in 2009, but will be a benefit in 2010.  Management guided to grow gross margins every quarter.

 

  • Inventory Strategies: move forward with the inventory efficiency but also keep a very, very close eye on fill rate. In certain categories in 2009 demand outpaced UA’s ability to supply. Some of that is around the cold weather product and some around some training product. But going forward in 2010, UA will be a little bit smarter about how they take positions in raw materials and positions in finished goods. Gearing up to improve fill rate and will be a big plus in 2010
  • Olympics is the first chance to show UA as a global story: Taking advantage of relationships with a couple of different teams. 2010 is a little premature as a lot of the deals are done 3-5 years in advance. Formed a relationship with US ski awhile back. The number one curling team in the world is the Canadian team and probably will be outfitted in Under Armour in the upcoming Olympics. Focused on what 2012 is going to mean for UA and focused on what the future is. Goal is to the protect their 94% domestic of business while  continuing to plant seeds internationally. Currently doing business in more than 40 different countries today

 

UA: Guidance is Too Low - UA S 1 10


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 80.33%
  • SHORT SIGNALS 78.49%

RESTAURANTS - MITIGATING A POSSIBLE NEGATIVE

A stealth job stimulus coming soon!

 

US Census hiring could help mitigate one of the negative MACRO factors affecting the Restaurant Industry.

 

The US Census Bureau has begun hiring for the upcoming decennial census. As seen in the chart below, hiring in earnest will begin in March/April once it is known how many people will be needed to conduct the census. A typical census worker will be paid $15-18 an hour.

 

Many restaurant executives in the QSR segment have cited unemployment trends as cause for sales trends decelerating in the past 3-4 months.  Some help might be on the way.

 

 

Howard Penney

Managing Director

 

RESTAURANTS - MITIGATING A POSSIBLE NEGATIVE  - census


RCL 4Q09 CONF CALL

RCL beat the quarter but 1Q2010 guidance of ($0.09) to ($0.14) excluding the legal settlement gain falls far short of the street's $0.04 estimate. However, investors are focused on higher full year 2010 guidance.

 

 

RCL 4Q09 CONF CALL

 

"Good cost discipline and better than expected revenues have enabled us to end 2009 on a decidedly upbeat note. We're happy to say goodbye to 2009 and pleased to embark on 2010 with an outlook of solid yield improvement, strong cost controls and improving returns to our shareholders.We are also benefiting from the terrific success of our latest Oasis- and Solstice-class vessels. These ships are generating very healthy returns due to high guest satisfaction, excellent revenues and lower operating costs."

- Richard D. Fain, chairman and chief executive officer

 

Guidance

  • Net Yields for 2010: 3% to 6% (3-5% adjusted for currency)
  • 1Q2010: Approximately 2% (flat adjusted for currency)
  • 2010 NCC excluding fuel: flat to slightly up (flat to down slightly adjusted for currency)
  • 1Q2010 NCC excluding fuel: up around 1% (flat to down slightly adjusted for currency)
  • 2010 EPS: $2.00 to $2.20 including $0.39 related to a legal settlement
  • 1Q2010: $0.25 to $0.30 including $0.39 related to a legal settlement

Trend commentary from release

  • "Net Yields were at the upper end of previous guidance due to strength in both ticket and onboard revenues."
  • "Early "wave season" bookings have been encouraging and that since the beginning of September, new bookings have been running approximately 30% higher than the corresponding period a year ago. Current price levels are also ahead of the same time last year across the majority of the company's product groups."
  • "Wave season is off to a promising start. It is still early in the selling cycle for 2010, but our order book is stronger and prices are higher than at this same time last year. We clearly are not at pre-recession demand levels, but we are pleased to see solid yield recovery underway."
  • "As of today booked load factors and average per diems are ahead of same time last year for all four quarters and the full year."

CONF CALL

  • Management sustainably decreased fuel costs per berth by 7%
  • $900MM of liquidity at 12/31/2009
  • Slow and steady improvement in their environment (like that of the economy)
  • Operating cost continue to remain a priority for mgmt
  • Onboard spending on Oasis is handily above average.  Solstice is also "kicking butt."
  • Management went out of their way to emphasize that the ROI on new ships is quite good
  • Excluding Oasis and Soltice class ships yields would still be positive in 2010
  • Slower capacity growth and any new orders wouldn't impact results until 2013 at the earliest
  • Acceleration in booking volumes has started to have a positive impact on pricing. While current price levels are still impacted by the economy, they can better control discounting and in select cases raise prices
  • Recieved financing commitment for 80% of the purchase price for Allure of the Seas
  • Have $770MM of debt maturities which they can easily fund from cash flow from operations
  • International products all experiencing positive momentum.  
  • Outlook for Europe (8 ships) is particularly encouraging.  3 ships in Alaska also booking well. Promising bookings in Caribbean product - but still have limited visibility as they have a lot left to sell. 
  • Eclipse to be delivered in April
  • In Caribbean continuedto see close in bookings in the quarter. 
  • This months European season is looking very strong
  • Bookings are also performing well on non-Solstice class ships in Europe
  • Will continue to operate 3 ships in Alaska
  • Back in the Bermuda cruises after a 7 year absence.

Q&A

  • Oasis was a special case and opportunity - less likelihood that they will have more of them
  • SG&A is likely to be flat to slightly up in 2010
  • Capacity growth in Europe and pricing impact? So far Europe is looking very robust and not impacted by capacity growth
  • What drove the divergence of ticket revenue and onboard revenue?  Ticket revenue tends to be more volatile than onboard. Are seeing positive trends in onboard spending
  • As they have matured in certain new markets, margins on off shore excursions improve
  • Booking window had a slight amount of expansion.  Some premium destinations are seeing an expansion but Mexican cruises saw a contraction
  • Capital spend looks $400MM higher than guided, (offset by gain on derivatives costs)
  • Load factors were about 2% down from 2008 in 2009. Expect load factors to recover a little
  • First quarter yield guidance? Gave prior guidance that it would be positive ex currency, and now it looks flat.
    • "talking about marginal changes" and feel like they are fairly consistent in prior guidance
    • Well, regardless of how management feels, they are clearly missing 1Q2010 expectations
  • Once the second wave of Solstice and Oasis ships come online do they expect any price degradation?
    • So far they aren't seeing any fall off at all
    • Allure of the Seas wasn't delivered until Dec
  • Disney ship? Historically they have seen that their ships add a halo to the market as it legitimizes cruising in general
  • Wave season continues to be very important to them 
  • Pullmantur? Spanish economy continues to be the weakest economy where they are currently operating.  Feel that Pullmantur has yield recovery potentially, but sounds like Pullmantur is still weak prob not accretive in 2010
  • Oasis is seeing more of an increase on ticket yields than onboard
  • Onboard spending is better across the board
  • Legal settlement detail? First $0.30 that were already announced and some deferred aspects to be recognized over several years, however, GAAP dictates they have to take the additional deferred payment in 1Q2010. So they will get $68MM in 1Q2010 and remaining $20MM will be paid on a deferred basis

 


R3: It’s Easy to Tell Who’s in Control

R3: REQUIRED RETAIL READING

January 28, 2009

 

Check out the differences between the income statement/balance sheet trade offs between UA, HBI and H&M.  Excellence, Mediocrity, and Cluelessness.

 

 

TODAY’S CALL OUT

 

One of the first things we do when a company reports earnings is triangulate the income statement and balance sheet vis/vis our SIGMA (Sales Inventory Gross Margin Analysis), which shows us the real health of the print relative to levers pulled on the balance sheet. If you follow our work, then you have, no doubt, seen these on many occasions.  

 

The normal cycle for anyone in retail is to move clockwise on the chart below; Quadrant 1) ‘business is great’, Q2) ‘yeah, our inventory is building, but we’re the best (and cockiest) at what we do and we’re not concerned about building inventory’, Q3) ‘of crud, we were wrong… too much inventory AND no room to hold margin’, Q4) ‘OK, we get it. We’ll clear inventory even if at the expense of margin to put us in the pole position again.’

 

Fewer than 15% of companies in a given quarter will sustain counter clockwise trajectory – which largely means that margins are getting better without a cleansing process first. I can also say that without the cleansing process, for margins to get better it usually means that the company is benefitting from an industry tailwind rather that the company proactively controlling its own destiny.

 

Ironic, then, that the first three SIGMA’s I looked at this morning (UA, HBI and H&M) entirely different movements. UA was clockwise = healthy. H&M was the opposite. And HBI was somewhere in between. I still firmly think these subtleties will set the stage for which names will be on each side of the ‘quality vs junk’ bifurcation in 2010.

 

R3: It’s Easy to Tell Who’s in Control - UA HBI H M SIGMA

 

 

LEVINE’S LOW DOWN 

  • Expect extra scrutiny when trying to promote a “Green” image, especially from bloggers. H&M is currently embroiled in a controversy after some fashion blogs discovered their 100% organic cotton line may not be exactly as advertised. After posting the concerns, the company responded by saying that in fact some of the cotton used in the garments was genetically modified. We expect retailers and manufacturers to remain under the microscope as many are claiming to be “sustainable”, while at the same time failing to verify such claims.
  • Add Hanesbrands to the list of companies looking to make an acquisition. Company management indicated that they are getting more serious about M&A, although debt pay down is still a priority. The company is focused on deals in the $100-$300 million range and they must be domestic given restrictions on the company’s debt. Management also noted that there are no negations currently underway, but that they are beginning to explore potential targets at this time.
  • According to a Neilsen survey, global consumers nearly doubled their time spent on social networking sites, to 5 hours and 35 minutes in the month of December. This compares to 3 hours and 3 minutes in December ’08. Interestingly, Australians spend the most amount of time on such sites, averaging 6 hours and 52 minutes while the average American is spending 6 hours and 9 minutes. Japan is at the bottom of the country list, with the average consumer spending 2 hours and 50 minutes tending to social media.

 

MORNING NEWS 

 

Li & Fung Signs Walmart Deal That May Generate $2 Billion Sales - Li & Fung Ltd. today entered an agreement to supply clothes and other consumer goods to Wal-Mart Stores Inc. that may generate an additional $2 billion of sales in the first year, President Bruce Rockowitz said. Walmart will have the option to acquire WSG Pte, the Li & Fung buying agency involved in the arrangement, after Jan. 1, 2016 according to a statement from Li & Fung, which didn’t set a price for the unit. Rockowitz declined to say if today’s deal would make Walmart the biggest client for the Hong Kong-based outsourcing specialist, overtaking Kohl’s Corp. Li & Fung, which makes more than 60 percent of revenue in the U.S., is accelerating efforts to buy smaller rivals and sign outsourcing agreements to meet a target of $20 billion in sales this year. The company, whose 35 percent gain in market value over the past six months makes it the third-best performer on the benchmark Hang Seng Index, has a $1 billion acquisition fund. Walmart isn’t obligated to any sourcing or shipping volume under the agreement, Li & Fung, the biggest supplier of goods to retailers including Target Corp., Inditex SA’s Zara and Marks & Spencer Plc, said in its statement. “We expect to do about $2 billion in the first year,” Rockowitz said in a phone interview today. Walmart, the world’s largest retailer, will become Li & Fung’s biggest client if it buys $2 billion worth of goods, Marsden said.  <bloomberg.com>

 

Macy’s Said to Be Cutting 1,500 Store-Level Jobs as of March 6 - Macy’s Inc., the second-biggest U.S. department-store chain, is eliminating 1,500 store-level positions effective March 6, two people familiar with the decision said yesterday. Macy’s, based in Cincinnati, is firing department managers and merchandising team managers, said the people, who declined to be identified because the cuts haven’t been made public. Some stores are losing operations managers, and the remainder will be shared across multiple stores, the people said. In addition, full-time stock positions were cut, they said.

Macy’s is standardizing its individual store structure nationwide, which involves eliminating and adding positions, according to Jim Sluzewski, a spokesman. The net result in the number of jobs is not yet known, he said. The move is a continuation of the chain’s process of reducing the number of its regional divisions and adding more local managers to better tailor its merchandise to local markets, Sluzewski said by telephone yesterday when contacted for comment. Macy’s also has been reducing expenses and controlling inventories after sales slowed amid rising U.S. unemployment. It said earlier this month it was shuttering five stores.  <bloomberg.com>

 

Callaway Golf Appoints Board Member - Callaway Golf Company appointed Adebayo O. Ogunlesi to its board of directors. Ogunlesi, 56, is Chairman and Managing Partner of Global Infrastructure Management, LLC, which is a private equity firm with over $5 billion in assets which invests worldwide in infrastructure assets in the energy, transport, water and waste industry sectors. He will begin serving immediately and will stand for election for a full one-year term at the Company's 2010 Annual Meeting of Shareholders in May. Prior to founding Global Infrastructure Management, Ogunlesi spent 23 years at Credit Suisse where he held senior positions, including Executive Vice Chairman and Chief Client Officer and prior to that Global Head of Investment Banking. "Bayo's extensive knowledge and experience advising clients in corporate finance and general business matters will benefit the Board greatly," said Ronald S. Beard, Chairman and Lead Independent Director, Callaway Golf Company. "He is a welcome addition to the Board and we look forward to working with him." <sportsonesource.com>

 

Blue Nile’s founder and key alumni unveil their new private-sale site - After six months of development, two of the founding executives of online jeweler Blue Nile Inc. are formally taking the wraps off their newest venture: Zulily.com, a new private-sale web site aimed at young moms. Zulily.com launched today as a free members-only web site that will sell baby clothes, toddler’s apparel and similar products through limited-time sales, says CEO Darrell Cavens, who formerly was senior vice president of marketing and technology at Blue Nile. The site features merchandise discounted by up to 70% and sold during a three-day event, says Cavens. The first event features products from Origany Inc., a manufacturer of organic cotton and baby alpaca apparel for babies and toddlers, and HandySitt.com, a manufacturer of portable high chairs for children ages six months through five years. Subsequent events will feature merchandise from Lex Modern, a supplier of personalized art, ornaments and handprint kits, and Baby Nav, a distributor and retailer of baby and toddler apparel. “We will feature a great deal of diversity with the brands,” says Cavens. “What we will offer won’t just be what’s found in a typical big-box store.”  <internetretailer.com>

 

JJB Chairman Steps Down, Pinsent Will Join Board - JJB Sports Plc, an unprofitable U.K. sporting goods retailer, said Chairman David Jones resigned, announcing at the same time a 28 percent decline in full-year same-store sales because of a lack of stock. The retailer appointed Matthew Pinsent, the Olympic gold medal-winning rower, and Moss Bros Group Plc Chairman David Adams as non-executive directors. Jones will step down from Jan. 31, the end of the company’s fiscal year, for health reasons, while staying on as a non-executive director, JJB said in a statement today. Total group revenue for the financial year fell 51 percent. Jones said on Dec. 17 that new merchandise worth 75 million pounds ($122 million) would arrive toward the end of January and that would mark “the start of the recovery.”  <bloomberg.com>

 

Aliansce IPO Weakness Shows Bovespa Decline Damps Risk Appetite - Aliansce Shopping Centers SA is raising less money in its initial public offering than the company planned, adding to signs that the worst Brazil stock market drop in three months is damping demand for new shares. Aliansce and stakeholders may raise 673 million reais ($362 million), 20 percent less than the 845 million reais for the initial sale that the company estimated two weeks ago. The shopping mall owner’s initial offering is the first in Latin America’s biggest equity market this year. Metalfrio Solutions SA, the nation’s biggest maker of commercial refrigerators, canceled its planned share sale and M. Dias Branco SA, the biggest maker of cookies and pasta, postponed an offering in the past week as the Bovespa index fell 8 percent since Jan. 6, the worst slump since October.  <bloomberg.com>

 

Cheapest Route to Walmart From China May Skip Buffett’s Railway - Chinese toys and sneakers headed to Wal-Mart Stores Inc. and Target Corp. on the U.S. East Coast may bypass Warren Buffett’s $33.8 billion railway as the expansion of the Panama Canal slashes the cost of shipping them by sea.

The deeper, wider canal will allow A.P. Moeller-Maersk A/S, China Ocean Shipping Group Co. and other lines to ship more cargo directly to New York and Boston instead of unloading it on the West Coast for trains and trucks to finish the journey east. That could save exporters 30 percent, the canal operator said. The $5.25 billion Panama Canal project, scheduled for completion during its centennial in 2014, may take business from ports including Los Angeles and Seattle, and railroads including Berkshire Hathaway Inc.’s Burlington Northern Santa Fe Corp. It costs as much as $1,000 more per cargo container to use trains than ships, said Lee Sokje, a shipbuilding analyst at Mirae Asset Securities Co. in Seoul.

“It is inevitable that railways, such as Burlington Northern, will lose some of their cargo once the Panama Canal is expanded,” said Jee Heon Seok, a shipping analyst for NH Investment & Securities Co. in Seoul. “Many more containers can be moved in a single voyage on a ship than going through the West Coast ports.”  <bloomberg.com>

 

Men's Specialty Stores See Positive Signs for 2010 - After business dried to a drip in the fall of 2008 and continued that way through most of last year, men’s specialty stores experienced a slight rebound in the fourth quarter, providing some hope for the future. Those that managed to survive did so by drastically reducing inventories — some as much as 30 percent — cutting expenses, seeking lower-priced merchandise options to appeal to price-conscious consumers and running more promotions. But according to stores shopping the New York market last week, a minor uptick in sales is still not enough to make them return to the old ways of doing business. Inventories may inch up a bit but will still be down from two years ago, sportswear will continue to gain at the expense of tailored clothing, whose sales have been lackluster at best, and incentives will still have to be offered to lure shoppers. Some of these strategies are counterintuitive for independents, many of whom have cut their teeth on clothing and have always managed to hold firm against promotional pricing. But 2010 is a new year and necessitates an entirely new way of doing business, retailers report, and they’re prepared to do whatever it takes to stay in business. <wwd.com>

 

Shipping: The Year Ahead - While brands and retailers see the pains of the recession easing this year, ocean carriers that get their goods to market are still girding for potentially massive upheaval. Carriers such as Maersk, APL Lines, Evergreen Line and Hanjin Shipping are facing myriad issues that are expected to linger throughout 2010 and beyond, including overcapacity of ships and containers, rising fuel prices and low freight rates. During the annual Textile & Apparel Importers Trade & Transportation Conference held in New York in November, executives from APL and Hanjin stressed their companies had taken all possible measures to reduce their losses. Ships have been scrapped, slowed down, idled for months and had their service patterns altered. Companies are also delaying the delivery of new ships. Still, they expected to see bankruptcy or consolidation among carriers as a result. “There are too many ships chasing too many containers,” said Robert Sappio, senior vice president of Pan American trade for APL Lines. The oversupply was exacerbated by the global recession and as a result ocean carriers failed to maintain freight rates at a level that would ensure survival. This has been particularly evident in crucial Trans-Pacific rates. <wwd.com>

 

Study finds barefoot runners have less foot stress than shod ones - Scientists have found that those who run barefoot, or in minimal footwear, tend to avoid "heel-striking," and instead land on the ball of the foot or the middle of the foot. In so doing, these runners use the architecture of the foot and leg and some clever Newtonian physics to avoid hurtful and potentially damaging impacts, equivalent to two to three times body weight, that shod heel-strikers repeatedly experience. "People who don't wear shoes when they run have an astonishingly different strike," says Daniel E. Lieberman, professor of human evolutionary biology at Harvard University and co-author of a paper appearing this week in the journal Nature. "By landing on the middle or front of the foot, barefoot runners have almost no impact collision, much less than most shod runners generate when they heel-strike. Most people today think barefoot running is dangerous and hurts, but actually you can run barefoot on the world's hardest surfaces without the slightest discomfort and pain. All you need is a few calluses to avoid roughing up the skin of the foot. Further, it might be less injurious than the way some people run in shoes." <physorg.com>

 

 

TODAY’S CALL OUT

 

One of the first things we do when a company reports earnings is triangulate the income statement and balance sheet vis/vis our SIGMA (Sales Inventory Gross Margin Analysis), which shows us the real health of the print relative to levers pulled on the balance sheet. If you follow our work, then you have, no doubt, seen these on many occasions.  

 

The normal cycle for anyone in retail is to move clockwise on the chart below; Quadrant 1) ‘business is great’, Q2) ‘yeah, our inventory is building, but we’re the best (and cockiest) at what we do and we’re not concerned about building inventory’, Q3) ‘of crud, we were wrong… too much inventory AND no room to hold margin’, Q4) ‘OK, we get it. We’ll clear inventory even if at the expense of margin to put us in the pole position again.’

 

Fewer than 15% of companies in a given quarter will sustain counter clockwise trajectory – which largely means that margins are getting better without a cleansing process first. I can also say that without the cleansing process, for margins to get better it usually means that the company is benefitting from an industry tailwind rather that the company proactively controlling its own destiny.

 

Ironic, then, that the first three SIGMA’s I looked at this morning (UA, HBI and H&M) entirely different movements. UA was clockwise = healthy. H&M was the opposite. And HBI was somewhere in between. I still firmly think these subtleties will set the stage for which names will be on each side of the ‘quality vs junk’ bifurcation in 2010.

 

R3: It’s Easy to Tell Who’s in Control - UA HBI H M SIGMA

 

 

LEVINE’S LOW DOWN 

  • Expect extra scrutiny when trying to promote a “Green” image, especially from bloggers. H&M is currently embroiled in a controversy after some fashion blogs discovered their 100% organic cotton line may not be exactly as advertised. After posting the concerns, the company responded by saying that in fact some of the cotton used in the garments was genetically modified. We expect retailers and manufacturers to remain under the microscope as many are claiming to be “sustainable”, while at the same time failing to verify such claims.
  • Add Hanesbrands to the list of companies looking to make an acquisition. Company management indicated that they are getting more serious about M&A, although debt pay down is still a priority. The company is focused on deals in the $100-$300 million range and they must be domestic given restrictions on the company’s debt. Management also noted that there are no negations currently underway, but that they are beginning to explore potential targets at this time.
  • According to a Neilsen survey, global consumers nearly doubled their time spent on social networking sites, to 5 hours and 35 minutes in the month of December. This compares to 3 hours and 3 minutes in December ’08. Interestingly, Australians spend the most amount of time on such sites, averaging 6 hours and 52 minutes while the average American is spending 6 hours and 9 minutes. Japan is at the bottom of the country list, with the average consumer spending 2 hours and 50 minutes tending to social media.

 

MORNING NEWS 

 

Li & Fung Signs Walmart Deal That May Generate $2 Billion Sales - Li & Fung Ltd. today entered an agreement to supply clothes and other consumer goods to Wal-Mart Stores Inc. that may generate an additional $2 billion of sales in the first year, President Bruce Rockowitz said. Walmart will have the option to acquire WSG Pte, the Li & Fung buying agency involved in the arrangement, after Jan. 1, 2016 according to a statement from Li & Fung, which didn’t set a price for the unit. Rockowitz declined to say if today’s deal would make Walmart the biggest client for the Hong Kong-based outsourcing specialist, overtaking Kohl’s Corp. Li & Fung, which makes more than 60 percent of revenue in the U.S., is accelerating efforts to buy smaller rivals and sign outsourcing agreements to meet a target of $20 billion in sales this year. The company, whose 35 percent gain in market value over the past six months makes it the third-best performer on the benchmark Hang Seng Index, has a $1 billion acquisition fund. Walmart isn’t obligated to any sourcing or shipping volume under the agreement, Li & Fung, the biggest supplier of goods to retailers including Target Corp., Inditex SA’s Zara and Marks & Spencer Plc, said in its statement. “We expect to do about $2 billion in the first year,” Rockowitz said in a phone interview today. Walmart, the world’s largest retailer, will become Li & Fung’s biggest client if it buys $2 billion worth of goods, Marsden said.  <bloomberg.com>

 

Macy’s Said to Be Cutting 1,500 Store-Level Jobs as of March 6 - Macy’s Inc., the second-biggest U.S. department-store chain, is eliminating 1,500 store-level positions effective March 6, two people familiar with the decision said yesterday. Macy’s, based in Cincinnati, is firing department managers and merchandising team managers, said the people, who declined to be identified because the cuts haven’t been made public. Some stores are losing operations managers, and the remainder will be shared across multiple stores, the people said. In addition, full-time stock positions were cut, they said.

Macy’s is standardizing its individual store structure nationwide, which involves eliminating and adding positions, according to Jim Sluzewski, a spokesman. The net result in the number of jobs is not yet known, he said. The move is a continuation of the chain’s process of reducing the number of its regional divisions and adding more local managers to better tailor its merchandise to local markets, Sluzewski said by telephone yesterday when contacted for comment. Macy’s also has been reducing expenses and controlling inventories after sales slowed amid rising U.S. unemployment. It said earlier this month it was shuttering five stores.  <bloomberg.com>

 

Callaway Golf Appoints Board Member - Callaway Golf Company appointed Adebayo O. Ogunlesi to its board of directors. Ogunlesi, 56, is Chairman and Managing Partner of Global Infrastructure Management, LLC, which is a private equity firm with over $5 billion in assets which invests worldwide in infrastructure assets in the energy, transport, water and waste industry sectors. He will begin serving immediately and will stand for election for a full one-year term at the Company's 2010 Annual Meeting of Shareholders in May. Prior to founding Global Infrastructure Management, Ogunlesi spent 23 years at Credit Suisse where he held senior positions, including Executive Vice Chairman and Chief Client Officer and prior to that Global Head of Investment Banking. "Bayo's extensive knowledge and experience advising clients in corporate finance and general business matters will benefit the Board greatly," said Ronald S. Beard, Chairman and Lead Independent Director, Callaway Golf Company. "He is a welcome addition to the Board and we look forward to working with him." <sportsonesource.com>

 

Blue Nile’s founder and key alumni unveil their new private-sale site - After six months of development, two of the founding executives of online jeweler Blue Nile Inc. are formally taking the wraps off their newest venture: Zulily.com, a new private-sale web site aimed at young moms. Zulily.com launched today as a free members-only web site that will sell baby clothes, toddler’s apparel and similar products through limited-time sales, says CEO Darrell Cavens, who formerly was senior vice president of marketing and technology at Blue Nile. The site features merchandise discounted by up to 70% and sold during a three-day event, says Cavens. The first event features products from Origany Inc., a manufacturer of organic cotton and baby alpaca apparel for babies and toddlers, and HandySitt.com, a manufacturer of portable high chairs for children ages six months through five years. Subsequent events will feature merchandise from Lex Modern, a supplier of personalized art, ornaments and handprint kits, and Baby Nav, a distributor and retailer of baby and toddler apparel. “We will feature a great deal of diversity with the brands,” says Cavens. “What we will offer won’t just be what’s found in a typical big-box store.”  <internetretailer.com>

 

JJB Chairman Steps Down, Pinsent Will Join Board - JJB Sports Plc, an unprofitable U.K. sporting goods retailer, said Chairman David Jones resigned, announcing at the same time a 28 percent decline in full-year same-store sales because of a lack of stock. The retailer appointed Matthew Pinsent, the Olympic gold medal-winning rower, and Moss Bros Group Plc Chairman David Adams as non-executive directors. Jones will step down from Jan. 31, the end of the company’s fiscal year, for health reasons, while staying on as a non-executive director, JJB said in a statement today. Total group revenue for the financial year fell 51 percent. Jones said on Dec. 17 that new merchandise worth 75 million pounds ($122 million) would arrive toward the end of January and that would mark “the start of the recovery.”  <bloomberg.com>

 

Aliansce IPO Weakness Shows Bovespa Decline Damps Risk Appetite - Aliansce Shopping Centers SA is raising less money in its initial public offering than the company planned, adding to signs that the worst Brazil stock market drop in three months is damping demand for new shares. Aliansce and stakeholders may raise 673 million reais ($362 million), 20 percent less than the 845 million reais for the initial sale that the company estimated two weeks ago. The shopping mall owner’s initial offering is the first in Latin America’s biggest equity market this year. Metalfrio Solutions SA, the nation’s biggest maker of commercial refrigerators, canceled its planned share sale and M. Dias Branco SA, the biggest maker of cookies and pasta, postponed an offering in the past week as the Bovespa index fell 8 percent since Jan. 6, the worst slump since October.  <bloomberg.com>

 

Cheapest Route to Walmart From China May Skip Buffett’s Railway - Chinese toys and sneakers headed to Wal-Mart Stores Inc. and Target Corp. on the U.S. East Coast may bypass Warren Buffett’s $33.8 billion railway as the expansion of the Panama Canal slashes the cost of shipping them by sea.

The deeper, wider canal will allow A.P. Moeller-Maersk A/S, China Ocean Shipping Group Co. and other lines to ship more cargo directly to New York and Boston instead of unloading it on the West Coast for trains and trucks to finish the journey east. That could save exporters 30 percent, the canal operator said. The $5.25 billion Panama Canal project, scheduled for completion during its centennial in 2014, may take business from ports including Los Angeles and Seattle, and railroads including Berkshire Hathaway Inc.’s Burlington Northern Santa Fe Corp. It costs as much as $1,000 more per cargo container to use trains than ships, said Lee Sokje, a shipbuilding analyst at Mirae Asset Securities Co. in Seoul.

“It is inevitable that railways, such as Burlington Northern, will lose some of their cargo once the Panama Canal is expanded,” said Jee Heon Seok, a shipping analyst for NH Investment & Securities Co. in Seoul. “Many more containers can be moved in a single voyage on a ship than going through the West Coast ports.”  <bloomberg.com>

 

Men's Specialty Stores See Positive Signs for 2010 - After business dried to a drip in the fall of 2008 and continued that way through most of last year, men’s specialty stores experienced a slight rebound in the fourth quarter, providing some hope for the future. Those that managed to survive did so by drastically reducing inventories — some as much as 30 percent — cutting expenses, seeking lower-priced merchandise options to appeal to price-conscious consumers and running more promotions. But according to stores shopping the New York market last week, a minor uptick in sales is still not enough to make them return to the old ways of doing business. Inventories may inch up a bit but will still be down from two years ago, sportswear will continue to gain at the expense of tailored clothing, whose sales have been lackluster at best, and incentives will still have to be offered to lure shoppers. Some of these strategies are counterintuitive for independents, many of whom have cut their teeth on clothing and have always managed to hold firm against promotional pricing. But 2010 is a new year and necessitates an entirely new way of doing business, retailers report, and they’re prepared to do whatever it takes to stay in business. <wwd.com>

 

Shipping: The Year Ahead - While brands and retailers see the pains of the recession easing this year, ocean carriers that get their goods to market are still girding for potentially massive upheaval. Carriers such as Maersk, APL Lines, Evergreen Line and Hanjin Shipping are facing myriad issues that are expected to linger throughout 2010 and beyond, including overcapacity of ships and containers, rising fuel prices and low freight rates. During the annual Textile & Apparel Importers Trade & Transportation Conference held in New York in November, executives from APL and Hanjin stressed their companies had taken all possible measures to reduce their losses. Ships have been scrapped, slowed down, idled for months and had their service patterns altered. Companies are also delaying the delivery of new ships. Still, they expected to see bankruptcy or consolidation among carriers as a result. “There are too many ships chasing too many containers,” said Robert Sappio, senior vice president of Pan American trade for APL Lines. The oversupply was exacerbated by the global recession and as a result ocean carriers failed to maintain freight rates at a level that would ensure survival. This has been particularly evident in crucial Trans-Pacific rates. <wwd.com>

 

Study finds barefoot runners have less foot stress than shod ones - Scientists have found that those who run barefoot, or in minimal footwear, tend to avoid "heel-striking," and instead land on the ball of the foot or the middle of the foot. In so doing, these runners use the architecture of the foot and leg and some clever Newtonian physics to avoid hurtful and potentially damaging impacts, equivalent to two to three times body weight, that shod heel-strikers repeatedly experience. "People who don't wear shoes when they run have an astonishingly different strike," says Daniel E. Lieberman, professor of human evolutionary biology at Harvard University and co-author of a paper appearing this week in the journal Nature. "By landing on the middle or front of the foot, barefoot runners have almost no impact collision, much less than most shod runners generate when they heel-strike. Most people today think barefoot running is dangerous and hurts, but actually you can run barefoot on the world's hardest surfaces without the slightest discomfort and pain. All you need is a few calluses to avoid roughing up the skin of the foot. Further, it might be less injurious than the way some people run in shoes." <physorg.com>


Early Look

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