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    MARKET EDGES

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Not sure it’s embezzlement but I’m stealing some intellectual property from my partner Brian McGough. Brian has developed a very useful tool for analyzing apparel companies. In a continuous effort to take a fresh approach, I’ve incorporated his quadrant tool to analyze the gaming equipment sector. The quadrant analysis is just one of many unique tools I plan to roll out.

  • WMS sits comfortably in Quadrant 1: The Sweet Spot. In fact, the company has not wavered from this comfort zone during the last 2 years. Despite selling into a trough domestic replacement environment, sales are growing faster than inventory and gross margins are improving. Essentially, this is a tribute to management. The company grew sales faster than inventory without sacrificing gross margins for 8 straight quarters. WMS is not discounting to keep inventory low and drive sales. This is very healthy, particularly considering the challenging environment.

  • The IGT chart is very different, especially recently. Calendar 2008 has not been kind to IGT’s fundamentals or its stock price. The quadrant analysis is revealing. Trough replacement demand and market share declines have double teamed IGT’s revenue picture. Unfortunately, inventories continue to build. Q2 improved from Q1 in that gross margins actually ticked up a bit. The next few quarters will be very interesting. I’m not sure IGT can do much about the near-term revenue outlook but the story looks better if they can get inventories under control and continue the sequential margin growth. As I’ve written about, IGT is a potential long-term margin story. Headcount reductions and other SG&A cuts are the low hanging fruit and the company is making progress there. Continued gross margin improvement may come from more overseas manufacturing. More to come on these topics.

  • I have not included a BYI chart but suffice it to say that margins continue to expand and sales are outpacing inventory. Aesthetically, the chart line whips around so much it is not useful. The turnaround efforts over the past few years have yielded some drastic improvement in revenue growth and margin expansion. BYI reports tomorrow and we may have more to say on this one.

WMS firmly entrenched in the Sweet Spot
IGT needs to improve its inventory situation and maintain CY Q2 margin expansion