UA/NKE: Li-Ning Has More Skin in the Game

Few people likely noticed that Li-Ning – the largest Chinese athletic footwear brand – announced a partnership this morning with Skins, an Australian-based sports compression apparel brand. Formerly footwear-only, a few weeks ago Li-Ning dove into swimming…now compression. Watch this one, folks. Consider the following:

  • If opening a flagship store in Portland, Oregon earlier this year didn’t catch the attention of domestic athletic footwear companies, this move will. The partnership of a leading compression company by arguably China’s most vaulted footwear brand puts it squarely in the crosshairs of Nike and Under Armour.
  • A brief look at the company’s site (check it out here) reveals its heritage in cycling, however, the product has since transformed into multisport use. Most similar to Under Armour’s Recharge compression suit, both in price and function (think $75+), Skins doesn’t currently offer a compression product for the masses that competes at the $25-$50 level that both Nike and Under Armour offer – yet. See the examples below.
  • Recall that this also follows a move by Li-Ning on August 31st to get into the swim apparel market by becoming the official USA Olympic Diving Team’s apparel sponsor through 2012. In addition to the company's first U.S. sponsorship, it's a major indication of the brands intentions of becoming an apparel brand as well.
  • Skins’ most direct global competitor is Under Armour. With less than 5% of UA’s revenues (~$50mm) generated from outside North America, which is almost entirely derived from Japan, the company has taken a measured approach expanding into the Far East thus far. As a point of reference, the company has been in Japan for more than 10-years now and the business is now just approaching $100mm in sales at retail.  
  • On the other hand, Li-Ning’s distribution spans over 7,500 stores across China and is unquestionably one of the key benefits to the partnership for Skins with immediate access to the Chinese market.

What does this all mean? Under Armour and Nike will have to be more aggressive about their respective growth plans in China – period. Back on the Q1 earnings call CEO Plank noted that, “We are also taking initial steps into China, currently working to understand the consumer and how we need to organize to insure success.” While there’s plenty of share to be had in China, with Li-Ning making a bigger push in its local market with a better asset, we wouldn’t be surprised to see UA to step up its SG&A in a defensive way to protect its existing strat plan.  


UA/NKE: Li-Ning Has More Skin in the Game - Skins 9 13 10


Casey Flavin



U.S. August Budget . . . Marginal Improvement

Conclusion: The August U.S. budget numbers released earlier today showed marginal improvement versus July.


We continue to remain alarmed about the U.S. budget deficit as the U.S. government printed its record 23rd straight monthly budget deficit.  That said, while we aren’t ready to reduce our estimate for the U.S. government deficit, the August results did show marginal improvement versus July, specifically on the expense side. 


Normalizing for a 1-time FDIC payment, outlays in the year-to-date, excluding TARP, payments to GSEs, and interest payments, were up 9.4% for the first eleven months of the government’s fiscal year.  This is an improvement from the July results that showed outlays, on an apples-to-apples basis, up 10.4% for the first 10-months.  Expenses are outlined directly in the chart below and, once again, all line items are up on a year-over-year basis, though the sequential decline in expenses from July to August is noteworthy.


U.S. August Budget . . . Marginal Improvement - 1


On the revenue side, government revenues in the year-to-date are up about 1.5% for the first eleven months of the fiscal year.  While this is a positive, if we normalize this for revenue from the Federal Reserve, Federal revenue actually declined about 0.1% year-over-year.  In the statement today, the Treasury Department explained the increase in revenue from the Federal Reserve by stating the following:


“The larger remittances stemmed from higher profits earned by the Federal Reserve, which primarily reflect the central bank’s much larger portfolio and its shift to riskier and thus higher-yielding investments in support of the housing market and the broader economy.”


We’re not sure that the Fed having a riskier portfolio is a long term trend of income we would want to bet on.


In aggregate, revenue is up small on a year-over-year basis and outlays are up almost double digits, which is quite negative as it relates to the fiscal future of the United States.  But on the margin August was an improvement from July . . . if only marginal.


Daryl G. Jones

Managing Director


Within the next few days the street will get the most recent data on sales trends in the casual dining industry. 


If the whispers are to be believed, it appears the casual dining industry (according to Knapp) will see sales trends improve sequentially to 1% or slightly better.  The implication here is that two-year trends will improve 135 bps from -3.70% to -2.35%. 


I continue to favor EAT and PFCB on the long side and have my concerns with BWLD, but I don’t want to press the BWLD bet yet.


KNAPP AUGUST (RUMORED) SALES DATA - knapp aug whispier


Howard Penney

Managing Director

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EARLY LOOK: China Is What It Is

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It was originally published at 8am this morning, September 13, 2010.  INVESTOR and RISK MANAGER SUBSCRIBERS have access to the EARLY LOOK (published by 8am every trading day) and PORTFOLIO IDEAS in real-time.




“A man should look for what is, and not for what he thinks should be.”
-Albert Einstein



EARLY LOOK: China Is What It Is - Einstein China 1



Upholding the principle of that Einstein quote has to be one of the most challenging aspects of this risk management game. Most investors have a confirmation bias that guides their decision making. Over the years I’ve started using blunt mathematical instruments to attempt to impair mine.
Being bearish on US Equities since April 16th was the right call. Starting to cover our short positions on August 24th (covered SPY, IWM, XLY, etc. that day) and going long Chinese equities (bought CAF) on August 25th were good calls. Staying perpetually bearish on everything US or China is rarely a good idea.
One could argue that I made a wrong call selling our US Equity exposure too early this month (we moved to a 6% position in our Asset Allocation model in late August, buying Utilities and Pharmaceuticals). I’d have no argument in response. This is what we call the score. It doesn’t lie.
The score coming out of Washington last night was finally good. The Washington Redskins beat the Dallas Cowboys 13-7 and China re-accelerated their leadership in global economic growth. If you didn’t know why oil, US Equities, and US Treasury yields broke out above critical lines of resistance late last week, now you know…
Here’s a Chinese weekend data check:
1.      China’s Industrial Production growth re-accelerated sequentially (month-over-month) to +13.9% y/y in August versus +13.4% in July.

2.      China’s Retail Sales growth re-accelerated sequentially (month-over-month) to +18.4% y/y in August versus +17.9% in July.

3.      China’s Consumer Price Inflation (CPI) continued to accelerate, climbing to +3.5% y/y in August versus +3.3% in July.

Now this isn’t all of the Chinese data and, like it is in America, I’m certain that part of it is made-up… but it’s certainly better than Made-off type data and whenever our professional politicians attempt to chastise China or its data, they should seriously think about that.
The #1 reason why we are long China is the exact same reason why we were short China at the beginning of 2010. The core tenet to our Q1 Hedgeye Macro Theme - Chinese Ox In a Box – was that the Chinese were going to tighten the screws on speculative growth. They did. Economic growth slowed for almost 7 consecutive months. And no matter where you go this morning, here China’s data is – re-accelerating for the 1st time sequentially in 2010.
Whether you are a chaos theorist or not, you need to “look for what is, and not for what you think should be.” Jim Chanos is a world class short seller and he can be convincing in his longer term duration call that China can blow up. But I can tell you that is not happening today. In fact, I’ll put my risk management neck out on a limb here and make the call that China isn’t going to blow up this week either!
China is what it is right now – re-accelerating growth.
Sure, this will come at a cost to both your equity short positions (futures up) and the Chinese citizenry (inflation up). The world’s dark little deflation secret is that it’s not happening anywhere other than in certain assets domiciled in certain Fiat Republics. If you own J.R. Ewing’s 1980’s ranch on steroids and thought that having llamas grazing the front of your Connecticut front yard was going to inflate your property value in perpetuity, sorry to tell you like it is…
Here’s a real-time Asian market price check:
1.      China’s Shanghai Composite trades up another +0.9% overnight , taking its rally from the July lows to +13.8%.

2.      Hong Kong +1.9%, South Korea +0.9%, and India making another new YTD high trading up +2.2%.

3.      Japan even caught a bid, giving a Fiat Republic a bone, getting the Nikkei to close above its immediate term TRADE line of 9,190.


Here’s a real-time Europe/Middle East market price check:
1.      Germany’s DAX is up another +0.8% (bullish TRADE and TREND; we are long EWG), and now up +5.1% for the YTD.

2.      Spain +1.1%, Italy +1.4%, and Ireland +1.3% as the pain trade for those who shorted the Euro’s bottom in June continues.

3.      Russia +1.5%, Norway +1.2%, and United Arab Emirates busting a +2.3% move to the upside as oil breaks out above our TREND line.


Here’s a real-time Commodity/Currency market price check:
1.      CRB Commodities Index indicated up again this morning after going bullish from a TRADE and TREND perspective 3 weeks ago.

2.      Oil prices have confirmed the critical breakout above our intermediate term TREND line of $75.70/barrel last week.

3.      Chinese Yuan/USD 6.75 this morning is a new record (post 2005) high and Euro/USD is trading solidly above TREND line support of $1.26.

I guess Timmy shouldn’t have called the Europeans piggies and the Chinese manipulators. After all, in the end markets and political lives all find a funny way of finding where everything starts – not for what the conflicted and compromised want them to be, but for what they are.
We’ve reduced our cash position in the Hedgeye Asset Allocation Model to 55% (down from last week where we started the week at 64% and down from our 2010 YTD peak cash position of 79%). My immediate term support and resistance lines for the SP500 are now 1107 and 1129, respectively. The greatest risk to not being short US Equities right here and now is that Congress is back in session today.
Best of luck out there today,

Keith R. McCullough
Chief Executive Officer


A quick look at short interest in the restaurant industry.


In the casual dining space, the shorts keep pressing the bets on BWLD, PFCB, BOBE, RUTH, CHUX and CAKE. 


I continue to be bearish on BWLD because of the brand’s positioning losing steam with the consumer and the company continues to press on with an aggressive growth platform.  In the short-term, lower chicken prices will keep margins and earnings in check. 


BOBE is facing a very difficult commodity environment and is struggling to get the top line going - never a good combination.


RUTH could see an increase in red meat costs as we head toward 2011 and the sales trends will be more difficult from 4Q onwards.  2Q and 3Q09 comps were -23.4% and -24%, respectively, with the next three quarters (4Q, 1Q10, and 2Q10)seeing trends improve to -11.2%, -0.5%, and +2.9%, respectively.  As the easy comps become difficult compares, it will be interesting to see if the top line can keep up.  Also a concern is the rising cost of beef which could see significant inflation year-over-year in 4Q.


CHUX has a new management team but the bearish case remains powerful given the company’s relative position within the struggling bar and grill category.


In the QSR space, those exposed to MCD taking share, increased wheat costs, and increased coffee costs all saw an uptick in short interest for the most recent two weeks of data.  JACK, DPZ, PEET, PNRA, TAST, BAGL, MCD and CBOU were all pressed by the shorts on a two week basis.  SBUX remains the Teflon Don of the coffee space but sooner or later they may also have to take up pricing if coffee costs maintain their current trajectory. 


Being short on JACK is an interesting call given that exposure to MCD and the company’s regional exposure serve to keep sales trends sluggish.  Additionally, commodity pressure is coming to bear on their bottom line.  At the same time, they are high on my list of potential companies that could go private.  At 6.0x EV/EBITDA, there is nearly $8 of upside and only $2 of downside from its current price, all else being equal.


AT 9.2x EV/EBITDA DPZ is expensive.  Additionally, same-store sales trends are going to slow and commodity prices are on the rise.  The street is not all that bullish on DPZ and the days to cover is high putting it closer to a potential long.  Their business really needs to fall off a cliff in order for the stock to work on the short side.


PNRA is an interesting one.  The days to cover is high but the street loves this stock.  What’s not to love with double digit same-store sales trends?  PNRA is currently goosing the company with a significant increase in their marketing budget.  The timing of the spending will be the key to getting this potential short right.  Two key commodities - wheat and oil - are breaking out to the upside which is negative for the stock. 


MCD as a short? Given how many frappes and smoothies MCD is selling, they should be posting better same-store sales.  Unfortunately for MCD, it has an average check problem.  For the time being this is not that big of an issue.  Come 4Q10 if/when sales slow and commodities prices are in the rise, MCD could have a problem.


BAGL, TAST, and CBOU: shorts press on rising wheat prices (BAGL), the McDonald’s momentum (TAST) and rising coffee prices (CBOU).








Howard Penney

Managing Director

The Key Senate Races To Watch

Conclusion: The Hedgeye Senatorial Race Predictor currently suggests the Democrats will retain the Senate 51 – 49.


Last week we had Karl Rove come in for a call with our subscribers to analyze the midterm elections.  Rove’s analysis, which we agree with, is that it seems likely that the Republicans will take control of the House.  The real wild card question relates to the Senate, where, obviously, elected officials hold their seats for six years and only 1/3 of the seats come up for election every two years.  In aggregate, this makes it more difficult for any party to lose control from election to election.  Despite this, the race for the Senate is incredibly close, according the Real Clear Politics Poll aggregate.


Currently, the Democrats should win 48 seats and the Republicans should win 46 seats.  That leaves 6 seats that are currently toss ups, or too close to call.  If the Republicans win four of the six toss up seats, the Senate would be deadlocked at 50 – 50, with Vice President Biden as the deciding vote.  Below we’ve outlined these key Senate races and how they screen on our Hedgeye Senatorial Race Predictor.  The key components of this screen are: 

  • Momentum – Specifically, which candidate has won more of the last three polls;
  • History – Specifically, how did the State vote in the last three Presidential Elections; and
  • Bully Pulpit – This is the party of the current Governor, which will give that candidate’s the increased advantage of the bully pulpit. 

The results of the screen are outlined in the table below:


The Key Senate Races To Watch - 1


This analysis suggests that the toss ups will be split evenly between the parties.  The implication of this is that the Democrats would retain the Senate with the narrowest of margin at 51 – 49. 


Interestingly, our analysis projects that Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid loses his seat in the Senate.  Admittedly, this may be the one race where the impact of the Tea Party could be most felt in a negative manner for the Republicans and where we may be off on our prediction.


In Nevada, Republican nominee Sharron Angle was endorsed by the Tea Party Express over her more mainstream opponent, Sue Lowden.  As an indication of Angle’s extreme status within the Nevada State Assembly, where she served from 1998 to 2005, she was known as “41-to-Angle”.  This nickname came from the fact that Angle would often be the lone dissenter in matters that were voted in the affirmative by the other forty-one members of the State House. 


Thus, while there was a time that Senator Reid’s hold on his seat seemed tenuous, he has engineered an amazing turn-around in the polls as voters have become less comfortable with his opponent.  In fact, from June 2010 to July 2010, the margin swung 18% in Reid’s favor.  This is the largest swing in Senate election history.


As we head into the midterm, the Senate Races highlighted above will be the key races to watch.  If the Republicans win four or more of these seats, it is likely that they take the Senate.


Daryl G. Jones

Managing Director

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