On the surface, Herbalife's numbers were great. The company reported EPS of $1.27 on expectations of a $1.06 print. The company also boosted its EPS forecast for the full year from a range of $4.45-$4.60 to $4.60-$4.80, putting the Wall Street forecast of $4.66 plainly in the achievable zone. Finally, HLF reported $137MM in cash from operations (compared to $120MM a year ago), which net of CapEx of $24.8MM means Free Cash Flow by that definition of $112.7MM, above the $96MM reported a year earlier. And yet, not even all the cash generated from operations was enough for HLF to fund just its stock buyback in the quarter which amounted to $164.5 million resulting in the Diluted share count plunging from 122.4 million to 108 million. So far so good. There is, however, a "yes but...."
One look at NFLX in the afterhours and one can see the latest and greatest short squeeze in action (courtesy of 14% of the float being short) in a stock which is no stranger to epic moves up as shorts scramble to cover, and just as epic moves to the downside when reality peeks through the hopium clouds every now and then. What is the apparent catalyst? It's not revenue: the firm made $1.02 billion in sales in Q1, precisely as much as Wall Street expected. What the squeeze appears to be focused on instead, is what took the stock into the stratosphere the last time around the management realized it needed to generate some cash as well: rising subscribers, or specifically an increase in total members as of March 31 to 36.3 million, up by 3.05 million in 3 months, and more than some had anticipated. However as there is no free lunch, what is the bottom cash flow line associated with this once again rapid customer expansion? For that we go straight to the company's own definition of Non-GAAP free cash flow which starts with operating cash flow, removes cash associated with DVD content library acquisitions, removes CapEx and nets out other assets. The result...
Curious why the USDJPY is in freefall after hours? Thank Jack Lew, and the after the close release of the semi-annual "Report to Congress on International Economic and Exchange Rate Policies." Traditionally the place where many have looked to see if the US would declare China a currency manipulator (which will never happen for obvious reasons), this time there was a big Easter egg lying in wait for those who did a word search for "competitive devaluation" - namely that it was located in the section discussing Japan.
Think the great BitCoin drama is over? After plunging by over 60% intraday, touching $100 from an all time high of $265 earlier, BitCoin was just getting started, posting a just as epic rebound to $200 in mere hours... before tumbling once more to $125... before rebounding again to $180... before sliding to $140... and so on. As the vomit-inducing sequence above hints, merely following every twist and turn of the real time tragicomedy that is the minute chart of BTC is a full-time job. And with the bulk of assorted BTC price charts DDoSed into oblivion, or merely down due to record traffic, the only remaining real-time chart may be the following from Clark Moody: we suggest using 1 Minute resolution. Perhaps what is most fascinating, is that unlike regular stock, FX or commodity charts which are largely dominated by robots, algos and other electronic traders, the trading in BTC is purely carbon-form based. So for those who enjoy some seriously hypnotic after hours undulations, this chart's for you.
We started off the overnight session with various pseudo-pundits doing the count-up to a 100 in the USDJPY. It was only logical then that moments before the 4 year old threshold was breached, the Yen resumed strengthening following comments from various Japanese politicians who made it appear that the recent weakening in the currency may suffice for now. This culminated moments ago when Koichi Hamada, a former Yale professor and adviser to Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, told Reuters that level of 100 yen to dollar is suitable level from the perspective of competitiveness. The result has been a nearly 100 pip move lower in the USDJPY which puts into question the sustainability of the recent equity rally now that the primary carry funding pair has resumed its downward trajectory. Another result is that the rally in the Nikkei225 was finally halted, closing trading unchanged, and bringing cumulative gains since the morning before the BoJ’s announcement last Thursday to 8.9%. Over that the same time period, the TOPIX Real Estate Index is up an incredible 24%, no doubt reflecting the prospect of renewed buying of REIT stocks from the BoJ’s asset purchasing program.
So much for the "transformational" CEO, poached from AAPL and credited with creating the AAPL retail mystique. As per CNBC, he now effectively "out":
J.C. PENNEY TO OUST RON JOHNSON AS CEO: CNBC
J.C. PENNEY'S CEO JOHNSON `IS OUT': CNBC
At least he lasted just a bit longer than the former JCP president Mike Francis, who came, saw, collected $10 million, and quit nine months later.
- Cyprus Salvaged After EU Deal Shuts Bank to Get $13B (BBG)
- Last-minute Cyprus deal to close bank, force losses (Reuters)
- Anxious, angry Cypriots face uncertain future (Reuters)
- Spain Brings the Pain to Bank Investors (WSJ)
- First Switzerland now... U.S. Seeks Answers in Liechtenstein on Tax Cheats (BBG)
- Rebel Free Syrian Army founder loses leg in Syria blast (Reuters)
- European Stocks Rise on Cyprus Deal as Italian Bonds, Crude Gain (BBG)
- Michael Dell Likely to Sweeten Buyout Bid to Save Legacy (BBG)
- Bankers’ pay premium is narrowing (FT)
- Surgery Restoring Penis After Prostate Cancer Increasing (BBG)
- Silent or supportive, conservatives give gay marriage momentum (Reuters)
Bernanke gave more testimony on Wednesday emphasizing and defending all Fed policies. He successfully parried all questions about QE and ZIRP risks and made no mention of any policy exit dates. Bulls translation, the printing press will be on “auto” to infinity.
Interesting testimony tidbits were:
“Fed could go some time without sending profits to Treasury,” (Fed is allowed to be a deadbeat).
“Savers will benefit with economic recovery; savers won't get strong returns in a weak economy,” (So not in my lifetime?).
At what point does Bill Ackman throw in the towel and admit that his latest windmill crusade is unsalvageable? Perhaps somewhere around now:
- Q4 EPS: ($1.95), Exp. ($0.19) - No, there was no decimal comma error here.
- Q4 Revenues: $3.884 billion, Exp. $4.09 billion. This includes a "free" 53rd week in the year which generated $163 million. Ex this, Q4 revenue was $3.721 billion.
- Q4 Comp store sales excluding the 53rd week were down 31.7%
- Q4 Interent sales down 34.4% - must be the store layout's fault
- Q4 Gross margin: 23.8%, Exp. 30.9%; (30.2% last); "Gross margin was impacted by lower than expected sales and a higher level of clearance merchandise sales related to inventory reductions in 2012"
- 2012 cash burn was a gargantuan $906 million; this compares to cash flow of +$23 million in 2011.
And so on. Stock should be down much more, but someone keeps on buying it after hours to telegraph that this epic disaster was "expected"
Remember when Bill Ackman told Icahn on CNBC he should tender for the company (to a less than favorable reply)? Well, Icahn may have done just that: moments ago the belligerent billionaire just reported a 12.98% stake in Herbalife, adding that he intends "to have discussions with management of the Issuer regarding the business and strategic alternatives to enhance shareholder value, such as a recapitalization or a going-private transaction." Needless to say, the stock soars, and it remains to be seen if the epic short squeeze that we predicted, and that Icahn confirmed on TV could happen if there is not enough float to satisfy all the shorts, will be next. Volkswagen anyone?
Update: it appears Carl Icahn agrees with our assessment: CARL ICAHN SAYS CHESAPEAKE'S COLLECTION OF ASSETS "ARE THE BEST PORTFOLIO OF ENERGY ASSETS IN THE COUNTRY"
Back in May 2012, when Reuters' all out aggressive campaign against Chesapeake Energy was in full swing and the stock was trading around $14 per share but before Icahn and Loeb were publicly involved, we predicted that contrary to the endless balance sheet bashing there was, in fact, much upside to CHK. We said that the argument rests on one simple fact: its asset base, which ignoring the firm's liabilities - as in a ZIRP environment, even CHK could easily refi its debt at very agreeable terms - and the CEO's lousy industry reputation implied a far higher stock price for the company. To wit: "the company has lots of good assets, as well as quite a few legacy liabilities, combined with an industry environment that is as bad as it has ever been. And sure enough, in betting that the environment might actually improve for a change, there are quite a few big firms which may be happy to onboard the assets and the liabilities, knowing they wouldn't impair the right side of their balance sheet, while acquiring some good real estate and substantial reserves on the left, at a valuation that is the cheapest in the industry. Because in finance, once central planning is (finally) stripped away, valuation is all that matters." And even before that, a far more immediate catalyst we predicted would be a simple succession event "which eventually will culminate with the long overdue termination of the company's head." Or, said simply, the sacking or resignation of the disgraced CEO would unlock material upside value. Moments ago just this happened, as the company just announced a "succession plan" the direct result of which is that the CEO is out as of April 1. The upside value in question: just about 10% as the stock is currently soaring in the after hours session.
The most cartoonish stock of all time just came out with results that can only be characterized as ugly. To wit:
- Q4 revenue of $21.27 billion missed expectations of $22.23 billion
- Q1 EPS of $0.21 missed expectations of $0.27;
- The firm guided top-line lower, seeing Q1 sales of $15-$16 billion, below the estimate of $16.5 billion
- The firm guided operating income much lower, seeing Q1 op income of ($285)-$65 Million on expectations of $261.4 MM
- The firm said the its physical books sales had the lowest growth in 17 years
- Total employees grew by 7,000 in the quarter and 32,200 Y/Y to a record 88,400
- Worldwide net sales Y/Y growth was the slowest in years at 23%, down from 30% in Q3 and 34% a year ago
- And, last and certainly least, LTM Net Income is now officially negative, or ($49) meaning as of this moment the firm with the idiotically high PE has an even more idiotic N/M PE.
... And the stock is soaring in the after hours. Thank you DE Shaw.
- U.S. Wants Criminal Charges for RBS (WSJ)
- Bernanke Seen Buying $1.14 Trillion in Assets in 2014 (BBG)
- Irish banks at mercy of international paymasters (Reuters)
- Do badly, and we will let you do even worse: Rehn Signals EU May Ease Spain Budget Goal in Austerity Retreat (BBG)
- Too Soon to Celebrate for Europe's Banks (WSJ)
- Army says political strife taking Egypt to brink (Reuters)
- Media Firms Probed on Data Release (WSJ) - No Criminal Charges Seen
- Japan’s Government Proposes First Spending Cut in 7 Years (BBG)
- Nazi Goebbels’ Step-Grandchildren Are Hidden Billionaires (BBG)
- Goldman seeks to reduce China exposure (FT)
- More than 70% of Chinese airports generate losses (People's Daily)
Updated for the summary of MSFT, SBUX and T earnings.
Amid the deafening screams of hundreds of hedge fund managers looking for any hedging port in an AAPL storm, stock indices (expect the Nasdaq) surged to new highs from the moment the US day-session began until POMO was complete and European markets closed. Volume and block size was large as we took out S&P 500 highs up to 1500 and it appeared we ran out of the short-term proverbial great fool. In general, risk-assets and stocks were well correlated though the big disconnect today was a rising VIX. HY Credit did not play along with the exuberance early on either - as it seemed relatively clear that any and every trick in the book was being used to enable more out of the AAPL boat as we ramped up to VWAP. Once Europe had closed, AAPL slid, stocks slid (with S&P 500 dropping its most of 2013 so far), and risk-assets in general slid lower. JPY weakness and EUR strength helped support risk but Treasury yields falling back and a drop in commodities overall (Gold -0.9% on the week) had the opposite effect. The typical late-day ramp failed despite the best efforts of vol compression as stocks closed almost unch, at VWAP, in line with risk-assets (ahead of tomorrow's LTRO news). AAPL at lows as ramp failed...