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The valuation disparity between WYNN and HK1128 is pretty wide.  It’s not justifiable in our opinion.



Steve is smartly considering moving corporate headquarters to Asia.  While it may happen, either way, you can bet that if the US starts taxing non-repatriated income at the US corporate rate, Wynn will make the move faster than you can say tax dodge.


So Steve likes Asia.  So do we.  So why is there such a huge valuation disparity between Steve’s two stocks?  On our estimates, WYNN trades at a 3x EV/EBITDA multiple premium to HK1128.  Is this reasonable?  We don’t think so but here are the pros and cons:


Why WYNN should have a 3x multiple premium

  • Control – The parent company has it
  • Liquidity – Bigger, more liquid US listed stocks usually command a premium
  • Depressed EBITDA in Las Vegas – More growth off the bottom, although we are valuing both stocks on 2011 EBITDA
  • Royalty stream valued at high multiple – WYNN receives a royalty stream from Wynn Macau that is more predictable than the EBITDA generated by HK1128 and should be valued a higher multiple (since it is based on the top line)


Why premium should be less

  • Tax differential – Profits from gaming operations are not taxed in Macau vs. US profits taxed at close to 40% (state and federal combined).  Obviously, the tax benefit of a pure play Macau operation is not factored into a straight EV/EBITDA comparison
  • Higher Macau multiple – All things held constant, Macau deserves a big premium multiple to Las Vegas operations due to higher long-term growth.  There is excess demand for the Macau product as evidenced by strict visa restrictions in place
  • Macau estimates are potentially understated – given that is likely that direct play mix should increase nicely if Encore's tables stay unencumbered by junket operators
  • Cotai option – Our 2011 estimates do not include any contribution from Wynn’s Cotai development.  Unless one thinks Cotai won’t add shareholder value, more value accrues to the HK1128 Macau pure play.


We come out on the side of a smaller premium, if any at all.  The Macau tax advantage is directly quantifiable and Macau offers much more growth longer term than mature Las Vegas.  We are a little cautious in general on Macau over the near-term given the tougher 2H comparisons, high expectations, and potential for government tightening both in the area of visa restrictions and liquidity/credit on the mainland.  However, we remain cautious on Las Vegas as well, but with a longer duration. 




The S&P 500 closed lower yesterday, finishing with a very ugly final hour of trading.  We also saw a contraction in volume.  On the MACRO front, there were no meaningful new directional drivers for stocks today, as the RISK AVERSION trade is still prevalent. 


On the MACRO calendar, there's not much to get excited about in yesterday’s jobless claims number. Initial unemployment claims came in at 444,000, unchanged from last week, although after upwardly revising last week's print by 4,000, this week's print is being cited as a 4,000 improvement sequentially. On a 4-week rolling basis, the improvement was meaningful, falling 9,000 to 450,500.  As we pointed out last week, we remain concerned that without significant improvement in claims, a leading indicator, there will be no meaningful improvement in unemployment, a lagging indicator.


At the time of writing, equity futures are trading lower in continuation of yesterday’s weakness, which came in the last two hours of trading.  Yesterday’s weakness was lead by Consumer Discretionary (XLY), Financials (XLF) and Industrials (XLI).  Also, every developed market is down except Denmark which is up 2.6%.  As we look at today’s set up, the range for the S&P 500 is 41 points or 1.2% (1,144) downside and 2.4% (1,185) upside.  On the MACRO calendar we have:

  • April Retail Sales
  • April Industrial Production
  • Capacity Utilization
  • May preliminary U. of Michigan Confidence
  • Mar Business Inventories

It’s important to note that the TED spread has rebounded over the past few days despite the bailout in Europe.  Yesterday, the VIX rallied 4.5% to 26.68.  The Hedgeye Risk Management models have the following levels for the VIX – buy Trade (21.01) and sell Trade (39.31).


The Dollar bullish TREND remains (up 0.45% yesterday) and it is trading higher again today.  The Hedgeye Risk Management models have the following levels for the DXY – buy Trade (84.24) and sell Trade (85.68).  The Euro down again and moving into the crash zone (-17.4% vs. Nov 09).  The Hedgeye target of $1.21 remains in place.  The Hedgeye Risk Management models have the following levels for the EURO – Buy Trade (1.23) and Sell Trade (1.27). 


Next to Consumer Discretionary, the Financials (XLF) was one of the worst performing sectors yesterday.  Increased litigation risk was the biggest headwind for the financials yesterday.   The WSJ reported that many more firms are in early-stage criminal scrutiny regarding representations they had made to investors in marketing CDOs.  In addition, the NY Times noted that NY Attorney General Cuomo has begun an investigation of eight banks to determine whether they provided misleading information to ratings agencies in an effort to inflate the ratings of certain mortgage securities.


On the Consumer Discretionary (XLY) side, retail sold off sharply with the S&P Retail Index down 3%.  URBN and KSS were among the notable decliners following April quarter results.   In the Restaurant space sluggish trends at WEN and JACK brought the group down.  The Homebuilders came under with the XHB down 3.6%.   


Despite the weakness in China, the materials (XLB) sector was a relative outperformer.  Aluminum names such as CENX +5.1% and AA +2.7% were among the standouts in the sector.  Bucking the trend steel stocks finished lower on the day, with some concerns surrounding a pullback in global steel prices.


Bloomberg is reporting that copper stockpiles monitored by the Shanghai Futures Exchange fell for a second week, extending a decline from the highest level since at least 2003.  The Hedgeye Risk Management Quant models have the following levels for COPPER – Buy Trade (3.10) and Sell Trade (3.34). 


Crude oil fell to its lowest price in more than three months on speculation that Europe’s sovereign-debt crisis and rising supplies in the U.S. indicate that the demand recovery theme is losing momentum.  The Hedgeye Risk Management models have the following levels for OIL – Buy Trade (72.38) and Sell Trade (74.99). 


Gold is in a bullish formation and is looking to extend its rally to another record as the “safe haven” is gaining momentum amid turmoil in European debt markets.  The Hedgeye Risk Management models have the following levels for GOLD – Buy Trade (1,205) and Sell Trade (1,254).


Howard Penney

Managing Director














Current trends and management commentary, encouraging for 2Q10.


COSI’s quarter was not pretty but the winter weather was ugly too and 100% of the store base was impacted by adverse conditions.  What is more important is the trend in sales since the end of the quarter.  It is clear that the sun is now shining much brighter on the concept.  Given current trends, a 3%-5% same-store sales estimate is not a bad target for 2Q10.  Dare I say, with that sales number comes a profitable quarter?


COSI - GAME ON - cosi




Sold 13 of the company’s 24 stores in DC market.  The company also made an agreement with franchisees to develop 6 new restaurants in that market.   There is already an impact in that market from the Capitol C Group.



  • Improvement in performance
  • Sales and margins were adversely impacted by weather in February
    • February comps were -9.4%
    • >10% decline in traffic
  • Moving in the right direction


Financial Commentary

  • Operating loss was same as net loss
    • No other significant items
  • Contribution of franchise fees and royalties declined slightly
  • 143 restaurants
    • 44 operated by franchisees
  • System-wide comps declined 3.4%
  • Franchise comps decreased by 0.3%
  • Company owned declined by 4.3%
    • 5.6% traffic
    • 1.3% increase in check
    • Higher catering sales yoy
    • Comp catering sales increased 2% vs prior year
  • Traffic impacted by weather in February
    • Company traffic declined by more than 10% in February
  • 1Q sales were below expectations but March beat expectation at company owned and franchise locations
  • Promotional items (steak salad, lobster bisque soup) hurt margins
  • Increase in labor due to deleveraging impact on fixed portion of costs due to weather
  • Increase in state unemployment taxes
  • Other restaurant operating expenses increased because of a 50 bp increase in costs for routine repairs and maintenance
  • Occupancy costs were up because of the deleveraging impact of the comparable net sales decrease due to weather
  • Demonstrating good control of G&A with a significant saving year-over-year
    • Ongoing commitment to align expenses with trends and infrastructure needs
  • Virtually no debt


Results for the quarter hurt by weather but sales recovery in March was encouraging. 


3 Key areas of focus:


Revenue growth

  • Although weather had an impact, there was improvement in areas
  • March was strong
  • It has extended through April and into May
  • Catering has shown recovery
  • Working on a catering loyalty program
  • Started  to shift marketing to out-of-store to increase awareness
  • Urban markets advertising – bus stations, metro stations, near the stores
  • Improved website, social media outreach
  • Social media promotions are proving successful
  • Expecting to further leverage website in online ordering – something COSI has lagged on


Day parts

  • Lunch
    • Faster service
    • Deliver products that are consistent across locations
    • Standardizing locations
    • Simplifying and making the experience more predictable
  • Breakfast
    • Improved products and increased variety
    • Needs to improve coffee and return to strong heritage in this category
    • Beverage tactics will be adjusted in the coming months


  • Making good strides in implementing food and labor costs the company has benefitted from
  • Franchise unit growth
    • Access to capital has tightened
    • Remaining optimistic about franchisee growth
    • COSI opened 6 new franchise locations in 2009
    • Internationally, there is a site under construction in the Middle East
    • Will continue to monitor refranchising opportunities (like Capitol C)


Expense control

  • Significant strides have been made
  • Still improving in GA
  • Some erosion in cost of goods in 1Q
    • Need to improve this
    • Lost food inventory due to weather and outages
    • Fumbled a few things
    • Managers must be accountable for oversight
  • All general managers are getting on the same page
  • Delineated what is expected from everyone in the organization
    • Results are showing
  • Operations excellence platform gives teams the tools to improve – “best practices”




  • Reducing turnover even with higher expectations for performance
  • Discussed additional ways to develop managers


Consecutive months of positive comps are encouraging but competition is difficult.  Marketing initiatives are paying off.





Q: Amazing how little the company advertises and Panera has a better awareness level.  You compete favorably with them…more advertising? Also, are you looking at high margin things like coffee and beverages?


A: Transitioning to work outside the restaurants on advertising more.  Other companies have been outshouting COSI.

We have seen the drink category leak away over the past couple of years.  Need to do a better job in coffee and lemonades. 



Q: Perspective around the positive comps in April and May…how are they happening, where, day parts?  Reconciliation on cash level?


A: We’ve been working ourselves to get customer back.  Catering is an active runway – a 2% lift in catering business.  Wraps have been helpful in terms of units sold.  We like the lift opportunity for breakfast.

The balance sheet improvement in cash included rights offering.  Minimal capex for the quarter but will generate more cash throughout the year.



Q: Lunch?


A: Holding our own in lunch…that is the one day part where there was some erosion in the first quarter.  The wraps are doing very well around breakfast.

Some soft locations and difficult competition.  Expecting some strength moving into the summer.



Q: What are the catering margins vs overall?


A: Tightly wound in terms of labor, it is planned.  Increase in packaging offsets that.  The catering business in downtown NY saw vendors drop COSI but we think the margins for it are pretty good.



Q: Why are your franchise stores doing better in terms of comp sales? Are you planning on selling to franchisees in future?


A: They are doing a better job in serving the customer. 

There are a few places where COSI will focus company markets but we’re not actively trying to market any company locations.


Howard Penney

Managing Director

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Correction of Abuses

“A reform is a correction of abuses; a revolution is a transfer of power.”
-Robert Bulwer-Lytton


This is an interesting quote that provides a reasonable metaphor to compare the current US stock market correction to the Western European crash. Despite the 1 TRILLION Euros of Keynesian elixir issued by the Fiat Fools earlier this week, stocks in parts of Europe continue to crash this morning.


Crash? Yes, crash. Both quantitatively (a peak-to-trough drop of more than -20%) and qualitatively versus misplaced expectations that Greece was a “one off” 6 months ago, stocks in Spain and Greece continue to crash. If some of these lying European politicians aren’t careful, domestic revolutions will be next.


Obviously hope is not an investment process, but the hope of the Fiat Fools in America is that the current correction (down -4.9% for the SP500 from the YTD high of 1217) doesn’t morph into a crash. For whatever reason some of the wannabe American patriots in Washington think that reform will provide an acceptable Correction of Abuses. The European story is starting to imply that reform won’t be enough. A transfer of longstanding government power back to the people may be the only long term fix.


Since the Fat Middle Fingers of debt maturities in Western Europe come due before America’s, here’s what some major European markets have done from their 2010 peaks:

  1. Greece, down another -2.2% this morning = -26.5% from 2010 peak
  2. Spain, down another -4.1% this morning = -21.6% from 2010 peak
  3. Italy, down another -3.1% this morning = -15.4% from 2010 peak

So, quantitatively speaking, Italy has not yet crashed, but my call this morning is that it will - and France will too. The CAC 40 Index in France is down another -2.4% this morning taking its peak-to-trough decline for 2010 to -10.5%. The CAC is broken from both a TRADE and TREND perspective. This is new. This is why we shorted France earlier this week on the artificial strength built into a bid by the Fiat Fools.


France, like the USA and the UK, has a said “Triple AAA” rating by our godsends of US analytics - the ratings agencies. This is lunacy, and everyone who understands the calculus of being levered to a fiat currency that is being debauched like the Euro understands that.


Not unlike the financial alchemy embedded in Wall Street’s CDOs, the ratings on sovereign debts issued to countries by the rating agencies is a joke. If you don’t get that joke yet, go buy yourself some marked-to-model government paper in this country or France and Godspeed to you.


This isn’t just my arthritic hockey knuckles being fired up on some Tim Horton’s this morning folks. Wall Street’s best independent credit analyst, Mr. Jim Grant at Grant’s Interest Rate Observer, recently issued his own prospectus on US Treasury bonds. Guess what his view of the credit quality of our fiat paper was? Not good!


The concept of “AAA” is well placed when considering the risks associated with getting into your car. When it comes to your hard earned savings, I think you should use the blind faith that Washington and Paris puts into their definitions of AAA as your contra-indicator. These Fiat Fools have no idea what they don’t know.


If you didn’t know that Piling Debt Upon Debt Upon Debt would result in the world’s leading lagging indicators (the credit ratings agencies) “downgrading” these countries from AAA to whatever double-B-minus-a-banana rating that a monkey could issue, now you know…


One of the ratings agencies is actually making a call this morning that there is an “80% chance” that they downgrade Greece. Seriously, I couldn’t make that up if I tried… so I guess I’ll leave it to them to make up some math on why the probability in their risk management model is precisely “80 percent”???


I’ve written this enough times for most of you to know that this is what I do. I am not a cynic. I don’t get paid like I used to. I am no longer a hedge fund manager. I am your Risk Manager – and I get paid to believe that markets don’t lie; politicians do.


Unlike short term paper from the US Federal Reserve, which is marked-to-model, the Euro is marked-to-market. It too is now on the verge of crashing. The professional politicians in Europe can say what they will. At $1.24 this morning, the Euro has lost almost -18% of its value since November of 2009. If we are right in our intermediate term call for the Euro to test $1.21, there’s your peak-to-trough crash of -20%.


If you don’t think this price move in the Euro is a leading indicator for a crash in Italy and France like you’ve already seen in Greece and Spain, send me your email address. I’ll send you some information on some insurance you can buy ahead of this car crash. It’s a US company that hasn’t been paid off by Banker of America – it’s the credible version of AAA.


We remain short the SP500 (SPY), France (EWQ), and Japan (EWJ). My immediate term support and resistance levels for the SP500 are now 1144 and 1185, respectively.


Have a great weekend with your families and best of luck out there today,



Correction of Abuses - EURO 3 YEARa


JACK is one of the better-run restaurant companies; unfortunately, the concept is in a “box.”  It’s a QSR company serving food to consumers who are unemployed in a part of the country that has significant economic challenges.  For reference, management highlighted today that 44% of its Jack in the Box restaurants are located in the 10 states with the highest levels of unemployment.  In addition, a mere 2% of stores are in the 10 states with the lowest levels of unemployment.


Looking at the chart below, the company was operating in what we call the “life-line.”  In this quadrant margins are defying gravity because they are continuing to rise while same-store sales are declining.  These trends are not sustainable, as evidenced by the company’s performance in fiscal 1Q10 and 2Q10.  During the second quarter, the company moved further into the “deep hole.”  The outlook for top line trends remaining negative (though at a lesser rate as we trend through the year) and since there is no reason to get excited about commodity costs, JACK will likely remain in this deep hole.  From where I sit, the likelihood of JACK climbing out of this hole in the next 6 months is slim.   


Management stated today that commodity costs are expected to increase by approximately 2% in 3Q10 and 3% 4Q10. The increase is being driven by higher beef costs; the increase in beef costs will be partially offset by lower chicken and bakery costs.  The company benefited from lower YOY commodity costs in the first half of the year (down about 7% in 1Q10 and -1% in 2Q10).  Even if same-store sales begin to improve sequentially, higher commodity costs will put increased pressure on margins. 


Management’s fiscal 3Q10 same-store sales guidance of -7% to -9% at Jack in the Box, however, does not point to a sequential improvement in 2-year average trends, but instead, implies trends that are flat to -90 bps.  Given that same-store sales are not expected to improve materially, commodity costs are moving higher and the company is lapping its most difficult restaurant-level margin comparison from FY09 in 3Q10, we could see JACK move deeper into the deep hole before it improves.


For those looking to buy a contrarian name, buying a stock in the hole is the place to be.  That being said, I’m going to let at least another quarter pass by until I have some visibility on the company’s ability to move up and to right in the chart below.





  • Quarter in line with expectations
  • Lower gains from refranchising
    • Transaction closed in 3Q instead of 2Q

Jack in the Box

  • SSS: -8.6%
  • In line with guidance
    • Sequential improvement in TC and check
  • Some improvement in CA and TX,  but no improving fundamentals until unemployment begins to improve
  • 44% of stores are in the 10 states with highest unemployment, 2% in 10 states with lowest
  • Best way to drive traffic is to target advertising to focus on value and premium
  • Continued to reinforce position with premium brand with varied and innovative brand
    • Grilled sandwiches, promotions have drawn good response and high attach rate
    • Higher quality French fry – shorter cook and longer hold time
  • Some margin family promotions allow guest to mix and match small items
  • Added smoothie and ice cream shake flavors


  • SSS: +3.1%
  • Higher consumer confidence and spending patterns among fast casual
  • Effective advertising campaigns
  • Continued improvement in guest satisfaction score


On track with growth plans for both concepts including expanding Jack in the Box into new markets

  • Opened restaurant in Tulsa and Oklahoma City
  • Sales volumes at new markets exceed market average
  • Focused on reducing cost structure while positioning the brand



  • EPS was $0.32 vs $0.51 last year
  • Refranchising gains were $0.15 lower than last year  due to the 3Q close of the transaction which has generated $0.10 per share
  • JACK provided no financing for refranchising


The rest of the P&L was in line with expectations

  • Food and packaging improved 70 bps
    • YoY commodities were ~1% lower in the quarter
  • Beef costs favorable in the quarter despite rising beef costs
  • Labor up only 20 bps despite the 8.6% decline in SSS
    • Lower turnover also helping
  • Franchise margins were lower due to franchise sales deleverage
  • 8.8m has been cut out YTD from SG&A
  • Roughly half of the $3.7 million decrease in advertising costs in the quarter and $9.2 million year-to-date was due to franchising
  • Important to maintain advertising weighting
  • $5-6m dollars incremental spending for 3Q and 4Q, reflected in guidance


Other costs

  • Facility costs declined and might fluctuate by quarter
  • Expect non-cash charges to be higher in the back half of the year due to timing of the reimaging schedule (also reflected in SG&A guidance)
  • Repurchased 2.6m shares of stock at ~$19 YTD and have approximately $47m in buy backs under credit facility and authorized by board
  • Repaid 21m under term loan


Distribution sales

  • Up 35% in quarter vs last year, 14% increase in 1Q
    • Driven by refranchised stores and more franchise locations now being supplied by company distribution centers


Commodity costs

  • Expected to increased by ~2% in 3Q and 3% in 4Q
    • Driven by higher beef costs (20% of spend)
    • Full year beef costs expected to be flat
    • 0% of our import 90s covered through May at $1.44 per pound versus current market prices in the $1.75 to $1.78 per pound range
  • Lower chicken and bakery costs (combined also account for ~20% of spend)
    • Lower by 6% for balance of year

Guidance for 2010

  • 3Q SSS for Jack in the Box should be -7% to -9%
    • Full year -6.5% to -8.5%
  • 3Q SSS for Qdoba should be +2% to +4%
    • Full year +1% to +3%
  • EPS range is unchanged at $1.85 to $2.05


Involved in bankruptcy of a former franchisee

  • 70 restaurants involved
  • One restaurant acquired by the company
  • Three closed
  • The rest are being transferred



Q: Is competitive discounting easing?

A: Chili’s bringing back their 3 for $20 deal so we are seeing a lot of couponing. Heavier discounting in CA. BKC has come off the $1 double cheeseburger but the buck double is there. Perhaps it is a little less competitive than a couple of quarters ago.  Breakfast was JACK’s best performing day part despite MCD.

Maintained media weight in 1Q and 2Q.  Will continue with marketing strategy in three areas; premium products, value messaging (bundled meals), breakfast.


Q: 10 cent addition from 21 unit sale in Q3?

A: The $0.15 is referring to the delta from last year’s 2Q.  The $0.10 per share is from the deal closing in the third quarter that we had anticipated for 3Q.


Q: How satisfied are you with the balance of value across the menu with current premium given sales mix?

A: We are seeing some good results from bundled meals.  Have to provide value, without hurting margins or brand.


Q: MCD mentioned that commodity pressure won’t cause them to raise prices, how do you guys cope with that?

A: We’ll be working with consultants to see if there is an opportunity to take price.


Q: Beef prices have spiked…how many days or weeks can you be out of the market (B 50’s) before you have to succumb to higher prices. 

A: The 50s are fresh so not as much flexibility as with the 90s.

50’s expectations are at plus or minus $1/lb.


Q: Insurance settlement…how much was that in G&A, as a benefit in 3Q last year.

A: Not sure.


Q:  On the last call you said CA was outperforming other markets?

A: TX is a more challenged market, CA is outperforming them.  Young, Hispanic males are suffering.


Q: When do the TX comparable store sales normalize with the ?

A: Texas was positive up until Q4 of last year.



Q: Premium versus value…how do you measure whether or not you are spread too thin…

A: The incremental spend is coming from company, not franchisees. We do a promotion and then analyze the sales, traffic, and margin impact.

We have done several different scenarios and we believe that over time, weight can go behind both messages effectively.


Q: Restaurant reimage program, how much more time until that’s fully completed. 

A: 50% on full remodels.  All exteriors are done. We’ve said that the remodels locations’ sales are holding up better than the ones that were not reimaged.


Q: Hand-wringing over higher beef prices…but you contract well and I’m just curious about the 3Q and 4Q guidance…how much of the higher margin commodities can you offset with mix?

A: we have done a good job of putting together promotions that are margin friendly and have a lower food cost.


Q: G&A guidance as a % of revenue, including distribution sales…can you give us a range on an absolute basis?

A: Not giving it to you today but we’ll consider it going forward.


Q: Despite MCD $ menu at breakfast, you saw strength at breakfast time.  How were breakfast products mixing across the whole day? Did you get trade down from lunch or dinner products during the day that pushed check down?

A: Generally we don’t see breakfast sales in large volumes past noon…


Q: Long term averages for refranchising program. How should we be thinking about averages for the last three years of the program.

A: Proceeds will average about 450 this year and average gains of about 325 based upon the midpoint again.

30 restaurants we sold in 2Q.  Visibility of one additional larger deal in 3Q or 4Q that will also have lower than average proceeds and gains.


Q: Refranchising in Q2 and 3Q, was there a geographic concentration?

A: Yes, the deals that closed in 2Q were in Pacific Northwest. Early 3Q deal was in central California.


Q: Bad weather? Can you quantify the impact?

A: Don’t like to use it and we lap it next year.


Q: Improving environment for refranchising process…should we think about refranchising rate accelerating?

A: expectations of being 70% to 80% refranchised by the end of 2013 gets you there. Not anticipating anything faster than that.


Q: Use of cash?

A: Authorization for share repurchased expires in November of this year. Besides that we’re going to reinvest and pay down debt only as much is required.


Q: Thoughts on market trends? Are you going to wait and then contract?

A: If we could extend current coverage we would do so.  We are monitoring it daily. Current guidance is that we would have no coverage going past May.


Q: On marketing, 1H10 you were able to maintain the media weights?

A: We did maintained the media rates and did some shifting from national to local.


Q: On beef, the 50’s are at $1.15 right now…does it have to come down quite a bit for your guidance to hang together?

A: We are expecting around $1 for the entire year. 


Q: Why 5-6m more on marketing?

A: Because of the sales situation


Q: Chicken plus baked items are down and count for as much as beef does…what are you seeing in soft drink prices and dairy?

A: Cheese and pork are around 5% each. They will be up in the double digits.  On the downside, a down-low-double-digits number in potatoes, beverages flat. That’s how we get comfortable with the increase in 3Q and 4Q.


Q: After B90’s coverage expires, what does your guidance assume?

A &1.75-$1.78


Q: Confidence in hitting ROP margins between 15% and 16% with commodity outlook and comps looking as they are, should we be looking at the low end, towards 15%?

A: We’re right at the mid point of our range in EPS. But if we end up hitting $1.85 we would be at 15%, anything north of $2 is more like 16%.  We did 15.2% this quarter on a down 8.6% comp.


Howard Penney

Managing Director



FL: Foot Locker Apocalypse, Really?

You gotta love when the sell-side makes a call for the sake of making a call.  Today’s edition of “The Foot Locker Apocolypse” centers around yesterday’s news that The Sports Authority is readying itself to open a new, smaller box prototype (see our post “TSA: File the Dang IPO Already”).  The concept is called S.A Elite, is expected to sit in a 12-15K square foot box, and feature higher-end product from the major athletic brands.  Without having seen it (neither has anyone else since it’s in “concept” mode now and won’t open until August),  I’m guessing this is TSA’s attempt to come up with a mass-market version of an Alife, Bodega, or Sportie LA.  Maybe even throw in a little NSW Mercer (Nike Sportswear) and you have a higher-end shop selling premium apparel and footwear to those outside of NYC or LA.  Admittedly, this is speculation- just like today’s call that this could “compete directly with FL”.


So we have to ask, is it fair and rational to worry about Foot Locker’s future before a hypothetical concept becomes a  physical reality? Many concepts could compete with Foot Locker, and oh by the way, many already do.  The opportunity as we’ve stated consistently for the largest seller of athletic footwear is to 1) fix its execution issues, led by new management, 2) stop competing with itself and differentiate the company’s sub-brands, and 3) build an apparel business from virtually zero. 


At no point when we first unveiled our positive stance or now, does our thesis become derailed by speculation that a prototype from TSA may spoil the party.  What is even more confusing is that some are giving TSA a great benefit of the doubt that it can build a 200-300 store chain before the first one is even open.  Let’s not forget that TSA, when public, was never an industry leader and in fact, always struggled to reach productivity and profitability levels achieved by its better merchandised competition, Dick’s. 


What about last week’s “Foot Locker Apocolypse” that was built on speculation that Nike was going to announce a domestic, mall-based retail strategy and put FL on deathwatch? Ultimately, Nike announced it’s going to open 280 stores, globally, over the next 5 years- across a range of formats.  Hardly the end of a turnaround that is only 6 months old.


The bottom line here is to use any baseless weakness as an opportunity in FL shares.  The story is very much intact and the turnaround is still in the early stages.  An analyst should never be dismissive of a competitive threat, for sure.  But speculation about a store that doesn’t even exist is almost irresponsible.  This is not Google phone vs. iPhone.  We’re talking sneakers and hoodies here.



- Eric Levine



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