American Eagle AEO W
July 07, 2008 - 10:35am EST by
sandman898
2008 2009
Price: 13.50 EPS
Shares Out. (in M): 0 P/E
Market Cap (in $M): 2,800 P/FCF
Net Debt (in $M): 0 EBIT 0 0
TEV ($): 0 TEV/EBIT

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Description

American Eagle (AEO) shares have traded down because the company has missed the fashion cycle in women’s jeans for the last year and its CMO just resigned. The current price implies that AEO will be unable to fix its merchandise until 2015, and that virtually every dollar of FCF that exceeds the dividend until then is worthless. There is a reason to believe that management will get merchandise back on track within the next few years and if they can, EPS will recover to $2.00, which at the median comp’s P/E of 13x, would imply a value of $26 per share.

 

Description

 

Price                             13.24

(x) Shares                     208.1

Market Value               2,755

 

(+) Debt                        75

(-) Cash                     (338)

(-) Discounted ARS        (209)

Enterprise Value          2,283

 

 

1998

1999

2000

2001

2002

2003

2004

2005

2006

2007

Retail/Sqft(1)

388

451

448

417

374

343

412

471

524

517

Other/Sqft

1

3

-

12

13

15

18

28

38

34

Sales/Sqft

389

454

448

429

387

358

430

499

562

551

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Sales

588

832

1,094

1,372

1,383

1,435

1,890

2,322

2,794

3,055

(x) Margin

16%

19%

16%

15%

15%

14%

23%

23%

24%

23%

EBITDA

96

162

170

208

213

195

432

539

675

709

 

(1)       Retail sales divided by the average of beginning and ending gross square footage, this metric ignores “other” sales such as ecommerce

 

AE operates 869 AE, 76 AE Canada, 63 aerie, and 22 MARTIN + OSA stores. They plan to launch a new concept called 77kids with a website in 2008 and stores in 2010. The company owns its HQ as well as its two US distribution centers in Pennsylvania and Kansas. AE leases its Canadian distribution center.

 

Sales by customer type are 60% women, 35% men, and 5% footwear. Roughly 20% of sales are jeans. I estimate sales by channel are 71% Domestic AE Stores, 10% AE ecommerce, 10% AE Canada, 7% aerie, and 2% MARTIN + OSA.

 

PUBLIC COMPS (Street 2009E)

 

 

EV/EBITDA

P/E

EBITDA%

Sales Growth

URBN

10.6x

21x

22%

19%

ZUMZ

5.8x

14x

14%

18%

JCG

7.4x

16x

16%

12%

ARO

6.9x

14x

15%

11%

BKE

6.0x

13x

22%

12%

APP

5.0x

14x

17%

19%

GPS

5.0x

12x

13%

2%

ANF

4.7x

10x

24%

12%

AEO

3.2x

7x

20%

8%

PSUN

3.2x

11x

12%

2%

Median

5.5x

13x

17%

12%

 

It is easy to understand why faster growing retailers like Urban Outfitters (URBN), Zumiez (ZUMZ), and J. Crew (JCG) trade at much higher multiples, but the discount being placed on companies with less short-term visibility defies most financial math. For example, while JCG is expected to grow at 12% in 2009, the company’s growth rate in 2010 is expected to decline to only 8% (equal to AEO’s in 2009E) while the company’s EBITDA margin in that year is expected to be around 17% (lower than AEO’s in 2009E) yet JCG trades at 7.0x its estimated 2010 EBITDA versus only 3.2x for AEO’s estimated 2009 EBITDA. AEO also appears undervalued when compared to peers who have worse growth rates such as Gap (GPS) and Pacific Sunwear (PSUN).

 

 

Stores

2007

2006

Average

2007 Sales

Sales/Sqft

2007 Rent

Rent/Sqft

URBN

245

2,015,000

1,738,500

1,876,750

1,507,724

$803

103,302

$55

ARO

828

2,936,088

2,626,680

2,781,384

1,590,883

$572

91,024

$33

AEO

987

5,709,932

5,173,065

5,441,499

3,055,419

$562

184,677

$34

ANF

1,035

7,337,000

6,693,000

7,015,000

3,749,847

$535

253,142

$36

ZUMZ

285

667,337

829,021

748,179

381,421

$510

22,151

$30

HOTT

841

1,581,600

1,541,300

1,561,450

728,000

$466

54,707

$35

GPS (US) (1)

1,249

12,200,000

12,300,000

12,250,000

4,454,000

$364

1,095,000

$28

PSUN

954

3,658,359

3,527,561

3,592,960

1,305,853

$363

158,000

$44

BKE

368

1,832,272

1,730,295

1,781,284

619,888

$348

44,000

$25(2)

 

(1)       Rent is for GPS as a whole rather than just Gap North America

(2)       My very rough estimate

 

FINANCIALS (FY ends in January)

 

Here are the current street numbers:

 

Street Estimates

2008E

2009E

 

 

 

Average Sqft (MM)

6.1

6.6

(x) Sales / Sqft

$536

$538

Sales

3,272

3,549

(x) Margin

19%

20%

EBITDA

624

703

(-) D&A

(125)

(140)

EBIT

499

563

(+) Interest

25

30

EBT

524

593

(x) Tax  Rate

38%

38%

(-) Taxes

(199)

(225)

Income

325

368

 

 

 

(/) Shares

208.1

208.1

EPS

$1.56

$1.77

P/E

8x

7x

Cash-Adjusted

7x

6x

 

 

 

(+) D&A           

125

140

(-) Capex

(260)(1)

(170)

FCF

190

338

 

(1)       Includes $160MM for store expansion and $60MM for a distribution center upgrade

 

SCENARIOS (2009+)

 

Scenario

Really Bad

Bad

Good

 

 

 

 

Average Sqft (MM)

6.6

6.6

6.6

(x) Sales / Sqft

$360

$450

$550

Sales

2,376

2,970

3,630

(x) Margin

12%

13%

23%

EBITDA

285

386

835

(-) D&A

(140)

(140)

(140)

EBIT

145

246

695

(+) Interest

30

30

30

EBT

175

276

725

(x) Tax  Rate

38%

38%

38%

(-) Taxes

(67)

(105)

(275)

Income

109

171

450

 

 

 

 

(/) Shares

208.1

208.1

208.1

EPS

$0.52

$0.82

$2.16

P/E

25x

16x

6x

Cash-Adjusted

24x

14x

5x

 

 

 

 

(+) D&A           

140

140

140

(-) Capex

(170)

(170)

(170)

FCF

79

141

420

 

Really Bad: AEO is the single worst teen retailer in the mall. Sales of $360/sqft are equivalent to the ten-year low AEO experienced in 2003 ($395/sqft adjusted for 2% inflation) and worse than Gap’s North American business. AEO’s 10-year low in EBITDA was the 14% it posted in 2003, but the company now has more scale, owns its own HQ as well as both US distribution centers, and has significantly enhanced its IT infrastructure. The company will invest capex well above maintenance costs in a perennially doomed attempt to establish a new growth concept.

 

Bad: AEO is one of the worst teen retailers in the mall. Sales per square foot fall back to 1999/2000 levels and margins, despite advantages of scale, come in at the low end of peer group. The company still burns money trying to find something new that works.

 

Good: AEO gets merchandising right. Sales per square foot comes in modestly below 2006 and 2007 with an average margin below that achieved in the last four years. As a gut check, street 2008E in Q3 2007 was universally $850MM EBITDA on $3.6B of sales on a smaller base of stores.

 

LONG-TERM VIEW

 

There is a good chance that AEO does not get its fashion back on track this year and that the macro environment deteriorates a lot further. The long-term scenario might look like the following:

 

  1. AEO has non-stop “really bad” years
  2. When a “good” year does come, the stock trades at a cash-adjusted P/E of 11x = $23.77/share
  3. Even in the “really bad” years, FCF should be enough to maintain the current dividend of $0.10/quarter, and I assume that this is maintained until the “good” year occurs = $0.40/share per year
  4. Its unlikely that AEO would keep trying to grow throughout this period, but let’s just assume that they continue to spend $30MM a year of Capex > D&A on new concepts that end up worthless and that all new stores operate at EBITDA breakeven until the company has a “good” year again
  5. The auction rate securities are eventually liquidated for par = $1.76/share
  6. Excess net cash is returned to investors = $1.26/share

 

Under these assumptions, here is what AEO’s stock would return to shareholders assuming that the “really bad” scenario exists until a “good” year occurs. (Example: if AEO’s next three years are “really bad” but the fourth is “Good” the stock would deliver an IRR of 21%)

 

“Good” Year

1

2

3

4

5

6

7

Date

07/2009

07/2010

07/2011

07/2012

07/2013

07/2014

07/2015

Business

23.77

23.77

23.77

23.77

23.77

23.77

23.77

Dividend

0.40

0.80

1.20

1.60

2.00

2.40

2.80

ARS

1.76

1.76

1.76

1.76

1.76

1.76

1.76

Net Cash

1.26

1.26

1.26

1.26

1.26

1.26

1.26

Total

27.19

27.59

27.99

28.39

29.19

29.59

29.99

IRR

105%

44%

28%

21%

17%

14%

12%

 

The worst recession in the US in the last 150 years lasted five years while the average lasted a little less than a year and a half. If I assume that a return of 12% a year represents “fair value” in the capital market, then the current price of $13.24 implies that AEO will not have a “good” year until 2015 and that results will be “really bad” until that time. Furthermore, the price also implies that the company will continue to invest capex well above a “maintenance” capex level in new concepts that all have to be fully written off.

 

While things can go horribly wrong in the short-run, I believe that these long-term assumptions above are relatively conservative for a few reasons. First, it’s unlikely that AEO is not able to generate FCF > dividends. Currently tempered street estimates would put this above $1.00 in additional FCF per year. Second, given management’s ownership and track record, it’s unlikely that management destroys all excess cash flow and it would be more reasonable to assume that excess cash is used to buyback shares. Finally, upon seeing some light at the end of a major consumer downturn, its possible the market values the stock at a higher multiple than 11x , perhaps as much as 14x, given AEO’s average five-year multiple of 18x trailing earnings.

 

FASHION MISSTEPS

 

AEO’s stores have average price points of $20 which is less than Abercrombie (ANF) but more than Aeropostale (ARO). The consumer has been trading down and ARO, with its much better brand perception for “budget” product, has benefited. AEO has shifted its strategy to focusing on a value proposition in attempt to regain some lost share. While this explains a portion of the underperformance, AEO still gets ranked as the #1 or #2 brand by most teenagers. When you look closer at what has driven same-store-sales over the last few months, the reason for the underperformance becomes clear.

 

Month

Comp

Men’s

Women’s

05/07

5%

++

+

06/07

8%

+++

+

07/07

(6%)

-

--

08/07

9%

+++

+

09/07

(2%)

+

-

10/07

(3%)

+

--

11/07

0%

++

-

12/07

(2%)

+

--

01/08

(7%)

+

---

02/08

(4%)

+

--

03/08

(12%)

-

---

04/08

2%

++

-

05/08

(9%)

+

---

 

AEO’s men’s business has been positive but the women’s business has been horrible. Specifically, tops are up, accessories are down and jeans have been absolutely destroyed. Simply put, AEO got women’s jeans wrong. This caused an inventory oversupply and management decided to take their medicine up front by aggressively clearing slow moving merchandise at a loss in Q1. At the start of Q2, inventory was down significantly and appeared to be aligned if not conservative for the current environment. AEO’s new denim offering will hit stores in the second week in July and will be launched with a “major” marketing initiative. Management has tested the product with teenagers and said that they feel “really good” about the assortment. While you can be sure they also felt “really good” about last season’s women jeans assortment, the new jeans line-up recently became viewable online and it is materially more comparable to the women’s jeans being offered at Hollister, Buckle, and Aeropostale than previously.

 

CMO DEPARTURE

 

Last week AEO announced that the company’s President and Chief Merchandising Officer (CMO), Susan McGalla, will be leaving the company at the end of the year. Susan originally joined AEO as a buyer in the women’s division and had worked her way to general merchandise manager of the women’s division. She was promoted to EVP of Merchandise in 2002 and then to CMO in 2003. Susan was being paid around $5MM a year in total compensation, making her one of the higher paid, non-CEO executives in retail. She owns about $1.4MM in stock and has another 500k in options that are likely mostly under water at the current stock price.

 

The street interpreted her departure as a sign that the fall merchandise line up is a mess and the stock fell 15%. It’s likely that management knew about her situation around March because that’s when her contract was usually renewed. In Q1, CEO O’Donnell began a thorough review of the business in order to get performance back on track. Keep in mind that McGalla was managing merchandise for the entire company as the women’s jeans business missed the mark and MARTIN + OSA struggled to resonate with consumers. While its possible that McGalla resigned because it’s the end of the line for AEO, its equally possible that she realized that she would not be up for the CEO position when O’Donnell steps down in a few years, and decided to pursue her CEO post elsewhere.

 

I was able to speak with investor relations briefly and was told that while they are looking for a new CMO, they are not looking for a new President, because they want someone solely focused on merchandise. Whoever joins will have some fairly large shoes to fill and will likely be someone with considerable industry expertise.

 

RESOLUTION OF MARTIN + OSA

 

This concept targets 25 to 40 year-olds and was launched in fall 2006. The start-up costs hit AEO’s EPS by $0.12 in 2006 and $0.15 in 2007. Stores have recently had some traction with new products at lower-price points but management has told investors that either MARTIN + OSA proves its viability by generating at least $350 sales/sqft this year or they will shut it down in Q1 2009. While either resolution would create upside to current estimates, the recent departure of the company’s CMO makes a full shutdown more likely.

 

AUCTION RATE SECURITIES

 

Company has returned slightly less than $1B in cash through buybacks and dividends over the last three years. When a number of auctions in the ARS market failed, the company froze its buyback to make sure it had more than enough capital to continue growing in an uncertain macro environment. The company has since secured a $175MM credit line of which only $75MM is currently drawn.

 

Auction Rate Security

05/03/08

Discount

Discounted Value

Student Loans

209

50%

105

Corporate

57

40%

34

State & Local

100

30%

70

Total

366

43%

209

 

AEO’s ARS are government backed and likely to ultimately recover close to fair value but in the present environment it is fair to apply a discount. Auctions on $286MM of these securities have failed and thus the company will likely hold them at an average yield of 6% for the next few quarters. AEO had to reclassify its investment in ARS investments from short-term to long-term investments and thus it is effectively ignored by the street. If and when the ARS market clears, this excess cash will likely be used to buyback shares. AEO bought back $172MM, $154MM, and $451MM worth of stock in 2005, 2006, and 2007 and the company still has an additional 41.3MM shares authorized through 2010

 

AEO’s chairman, Jay Schottenstein, owns 7.5% of the company and his relatives own another 7.5%. He bought a million shares for around $24/share in Q3 2007.

Catalyst

Reception to new merchandise to be released second week of July, analyst day on July 15th, new CMO announced by end of year, reinstated buyback (hopefully by the end of the year), resolution of MARTIN + OSA (end of the year), monetization of investment in ARS.
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    Description

    American Eagle (AEO) shares have traded down because the company has missed the fashion cycle in women’s jeans for the last year and its CMO just resigned. The current price implies that AEO will be unable to fix its merchandise until 2015, and that virtually every dollar of FCF that exceeds the dividend until then is worthless. There is a reason to believe that management will get merchandise back on track within the next few years and if they can, EPS will recover to $2.00, which at the median comp’s P/E of 13x, would imply a value of $26 per share.

     

    Description

     

    Price                             13.24

    (x) Shares                     208.1

    Market Value               2,755

     

    (+) Debt                        75

    (-) Cash                     (338)

    (-) Discounted ARS        (209)

    Enterprise Value          2,283

     

     

    1998

    1999

    2000

    2001

    2002

    2003

    2004

    2005

    2006

    2007

    Retail/Sqft(1)

    388

    451

    448

    417

    374

    343

    412

    471

    524

    517

    Other/Sqft

    1

    3

    -

    12

    13

    15

    18

    28

    38

    34

    Sales/Sqft

    389

    454

    448

    429

    387

    358

    430

    499

    562

    551

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

    Sales

    588

    832

    1,094

    1,372

    1,383

    1,435

    1,890

    2,322

    2,794

    3,055

    (x) Margin

    16%

    19%

    16%

    15%

    15%

    14%

    23%

    23%

    24%

    23%

    EBITDA

    96

    162

    170

    208

    213

    195

    432

    539

    675

    709

     

    (1)       Retail sales divided by the average of beginning and ending gross square footage, this metric ignores “other” sales such as ecommerce

     

    AE operates 869 AE, 76 AE Canada, 63 aerie, and 22 MARTIN + OSA stores. They plan to launch a new concept called 77kids with a website in 2008 and stores in 2010. The company owns its HQ as well as its two US distribution centers in Pennsylvania and Kansas. AE leases its Canadian distribution center.

     

    Sales by customer type are 60% women, 35% men, and 5% footwear. Roughly 20% of sales are jeans. I estimate sales by channel are 71% Domestic AE Stores, 10% AE ecommerce, 10% AE Canada, 7% aerie, and 2% MARTIN + OSA.

     

    PUBLIC COMPS (Street 2009E)

     

     

    EV/EBITDA

    P/E

    EBITDA%

    Sales Growth

    URBN

    10.6x

    21x

    22%

    19%

    ZUMZ

    5.8x

    14x

    14%

    18%

    JCG

    7.4x

    16x

    16%

    12%

    ARO

    6.9x

    14x

    15%

    11%

    BKE

    6.0x

    13x

    22%

    12%

    APP

    5.0x

    14x

    17%

    19%

    GPS

    5.0x

    12x

    13%

    2%

    ANF

    4.7x

    10x

    24%

    12%

    AEO

    3.2x

    7x

    20%

    8%

    PSUN

    3.2x

    11x

    12%

    2%

    Median

    5.5x

    13x

    17%

    12%

     

    It is easy to understand why faster growing retailers like Urban Outfitters (URBN), Zumiez (ZUMZ), and J. Crew (JCG) trade at much higher multiples, but the discount being placed on companies with less short-term visibility defies most financial math. For example, while JCG is expected to grow at 12% in 2009, the company’s growth rate in 2010 is expected to decline to only 8% (equal to AEO’s in 2009E) while the company’s EBITDA margin in that year is expected to be around 17% (lower than AEO’s in 2009E) yet JCG trades at 7.0x its estimated 2010 EBITDA versus only 3.2x for AEO’s estimated 2009 EBITDA. AEO also appears undervalued when compared to peers who have worse growth rates such as Gap (GPS) and Pacific Sunwear (PSUN).

     

     

    Stores

    2007

    2006

    Average

    2007 Sales

    Sales/Sqft

    2007 Rent

    Rent/Sqft

    URBN

    245

    2,015,000

    1,738,500

    1,876,750

    1,507,724

    $803

    103,302

    $55

    ARO

    828

    2,936,088

    2,626,680

    2,781,384

    1,590,883

    $572

    91,024

    $33

    AEO

    987

    5,709,932

    5,173,065

    5,441,499

    3,055,419

    $562

    184,677

    $34

    ANF

    1,035

    7,337,000

    6,693,000

    7,015,000

    3,749,847

    $535

    253,142

    $36

    ZUMZ

    285

    667,337

    829,021

    748,179

    381,421

    $510

    22,151

    $30

    HOTT

    841

    1,581,600

    1,541,300

    1,561,450

    728,000

    $466

    54,707

    $35

    GPS (US) (1)

    1,249

    12,200,000

    12,300,000

    12,250,000

    4,454,000

    $364

    1,095,000

    $28

    PSUN

    954

    3,658,359

    3,527,561

    3,592,960

    1,305,853

    $363

    158,000

    $44

    BKE

    368

    1,832,272

    1,730,295

    1,781,284

    619,888

    $348

    44,000

    $25(2)

     

    (1)       Rent is for GPS as a whole rather than just Gap North America

    (2)       My very rough estimate

     

    FINANCIALS (FY ends in January)

     

    Here are the current street numbers:

     

    Street Estimates

    2008E

    2009E

     

     

     

    Average Sqft (MM)

    6.1

    6.6

    (x) Sales / Sqft

    $536

    $538

    Sales

    3,272

    3,549

    (x) Margin

    19%

    20%

    EBITDA

    624

    703

    (-) D&A

    (125)

    (140)

    EBIT

    499

    563

    (+) Interest

    25

    30

    EBT

    524

    593

    (x) Tax  Rate

    38%

    38%

    (-) Taxes

    (199)

    (225)

    Income

    325

    368

     

     

     

    (/) Shares

    208.1

    208.1

    EPS

    $1.56

    $1.77

    P/E

    8x

    7x

    Cash-Adjusted

    7x

    6x

     

     

     

    (+) D&A           

    125

    140

    (-) Capex

    (260)(1)

    (170)

    FCF

    190

    338

     

    (1)       Includes $160MM for store expansion and $60MM for a distribution center upgrade

     

    SCENARIOS (2009+)

     

    Scenario

    Really Bad

    Bad

    Good

     

     

     

     

    Average Sqft (MM)

    6.6

    6.6

    6.6

    (x) Sales / Sqft

    $360

    $450

    $550

    Sales

    2,376

    2,970

    3,630

    (x) Margin

    12%

    13%

    23%

    EBITDA

    285

    386

    835

    (-) D&A

    (140)

    (140)

    (140)

    EBIT

    145

    246

    695

    (+) Interest

    30

    30

    30

    EBT

    175

    276

    725

    (x) Tax  Rate

    38%

    38%

    38%

    (-) Taxes

    (67)

    (105)

    (275)

    Income

    109

    171

    450

     

     

     

     

    (/) Shares

    208.1

    208.1

    208.1

    EPS

    $0.52

    $0.82

    $2.16

    P/E

    25x

    16x

    6x

    Cash-Adjusted

    24x

    14x

    5x

     

     

     

     

    (+) D&A           

    140

    140

    140

    (-) Capex

    (170)

    (170)

    (170)

    FCF

    79

    141

    420

     

    Really Bad: AEO is the single worst teen retailer in the mall. Sales of $360/sqft are equivalent to the ten-year low AEO experienced in 2003 ($395/sqft adjusted for 2% inflation) and worse than Gap’s North American business. AEO’s 10-year low in EBITDA was the 14% it posted in 2003, but the company now has more scale, owns its own HQ as well as both US distribution centers, and has significantly enhanced its IT infrastructure. The company will invest capex well above maintenance costs in a perennially doomed attempt to establish a new growth concept.

     

    Bad: AEO is one of the worst teen retailers in the mall. Sales per square foot fall back to 1999/2000 levels and margins, despite advantages of scale, come in at the low end of peer group. The company still burns money trying to find something new that works.

     

    Good: AEO gets merchandising right. Sales per square foot comes in modestly below 2006 and 2007 with an average margin below that achieved in the last four years. As a gut check, street 2008E in Q3 2007 was universally $850MM EBITDA on $3.6B of sales on a smaller base of stores.

     

    LONG-TERM VIEW

     

    There is a good chance that AEO does not get its fashion back on track this year and that the macro environment deteriorates a lot further. The long-term scenario might look like the following:

     

    1. AEO has non-stop “really bad” years
    2. When a “good” year does come, the stock trades at a cash-adjusted P/E of 11x = $23.77/share
    3. Even in the “really bad” years, FCF should be enough to maintain the current dividend of $0.10/quarter, and I assume that this is maintained until the “good” year occurs = $0.40/share per year
    4. Its unlikely that AEO would keep trying to grow throughout this period, but let’s just assume that they continue to spend $30MM a year of Capex > D&A on new concepts that end up worthless and that all new stores operate at EBITDA breakeven until the company has a “good” year again
    5. The auction rate securities are eventually liquidated for par = $1.76/share
    6. Excess net cash is returned to investors = $1.26/share

     

    Under these assumptions, here is what AEO’s stock would return to shareholders assuming that the “really bad” scenario exists until a “good” year occurs. (Example: if AEO’s next three years are “really bad” but the fourth is “Good” the stock would deliver an IRR of 21%)

     

    “Good” Year

    1

    2

    3

    4

    5

    6

    7

    Date

    07/2009

    07/2010

    07/2011

    07/2012

    07/2013

    07/2014

    07/2015

    Business

    23.77

    23.77

    23.77

    23.77

    23.77

    23.77

    23.77

    Dividend

    0.40

    0.80

    1.20

    1.60

    2.00

    2.40

    2.80

    ARS

    1.76

    1.76

    1.76

    1.76

    1.76

    1.76

    1.76

    Net Cash

    1.26

    1.26

    1.26

    1.26

    1.26

    1.26

    1.26

    Total

    27.19

    27.59

    27.99

    28.39

    29.19

    29.59

    29.99

    IRR

    105%

    44%

    28%

    21%

    17%

    14%

    12%

     

    The worst recession in the US in the last 150 years lasted five years while the average lasted a little less than a year and a half. If I assume that a return of 12% a year represents “fair value” in the capital market, then the current price of $13.24 implies that AEO will not have a “good” year until 2015 and that results will be “really bad” until that time. Furthermore, the price also implies that the company will continue to invest capex well above a “maintenance” capex level in new concepts that all have to be fully written off.

     

    While things can go horribly wrong in the short-run, I believe that these long-term assumptions above are relatively conservative for a few reasons. First, it’s unlikely that AEO is not able to generate FCF > dividends. Currently tempered street estimates would put this above $1.00 in additional FCF per year. Second, given management’s ownership and track record, it’s unlikely that management destroys all excess cash flow and it would be more reasonable to assume that excess cash is used to buyback shares. Finally, upon seeing some light at the end of a major consumer downturn, its possible the market values the stock at a higher multiple than 11x , perhaps as much as 14x, given AEO’s average five-year multiple of 18x trailing earnings.

     

    FASHION MISSTEPS

     

    AEO’s stores have average price points of $20 which is less than Abercrombie (ANF) but more than Aeropostale (ARO). The consumer has been trading down and ARO, with its much better brand perception for “budget” product, has benefited. AEO has shifted its strategy to focusing on a value proposition in attempt to regain some lost share. While this explains a portion of the underperformance, AEO still gets ranked as the #1 or #2 brand by most teenagers. When you look closer at what has driven same-store-sales over the last few months, the reason for the underperformance becomes clear.

     

    Month

    Comp

    Men’s

    Women’s

    05/07

    5%

    ++

    +

    06/07

    8%

    +++

    +

    07/07

    (6%)

    -

    --

    08/07

    9%

    +++

    +

    09/07

    (2%)

    +

    -

    10/07

    (3%)

    +

    --

    11/07

    0%

    ++

    -

    12/07

    (2%)

    +

    --

    01/08

    (7%)

    +

    ---

    02/08

    (4%)

    +

    --

    03/08

    (12%)

    -

    ---

    04/08

    2%

    ++

    -

    05/08

    (9%)

    +

    ---

     

    AEO’s men’s business has been positive but the women’s business has been horrible. Specifically, tops are up, accessories are down and jeans have been absolutely destroyed. Simply put, AEO got women’s jeans wrong. This caused an inventory oversupply and management decided to take their medicine up front by aggressively clearing slow moving merchandise at a loss in Q1. At the start of Q2, inventory was down significantly and appeared to be aligned if not conservative for the current environment. AEO’s new denim offering will hit stores in the second week in July and will be launched with a “major” marketing initiative. Management has tested the product with teenagers and said that they feel “really good” about the assortment. While you can be sure they also felt “really good” about last season’s women jeans assortment, the new jeans line-up recently became viewable online and it is materially more comparable to the women’s jeans being offered at Hollister, Buckle, and Aeropostale than previously.

     

    CMO DEPARTURE

     

    Last week AEO announced that the company’s President and Chief Merchandising Officer (CMO), Susan McGalla, will be leaving the company at the end of the year. Susan originally joined AEO as a buyer in the women’s division and had worked her way to general merchandise manager of the women’s division. She was promoted to EVP of Merchandise in 2002 and then to CMO in 2003. Susan was being paid around $5MM a year in total compensation, making her one of the higher paid, non-CEO executives in retail. She owns about $1.4MM in stock and has another 500k in options that are likely mostly under water at the current stock price.

     

    The street interpreted her departure as a sign that the fall merchandise line up is a mess and the stock fell 15%. It’s likely that management knew about her situation around March because that’s when her contract was usually renewed. In Q1, CEO O’Donnell began a thorough review of the business in order to get performance back on track. Keep in mind that McGalla was managing merchandise for the entire company as the women’s jeans business missed the mark and MARTIN + OSA struggled to resonate with consumers. While its possible that McGalla resigned because it’s the end of the line for AEO, its equally possible that she realized that she would not be up for the CEO position when O’Donnell steps down in a few years, and decided to pursue her CEO post elsewhere.

     

    I was able to speak with investor relations briefly and was told that while they are looking for a new CMO, they are not looking for a new President, because they want someone solely focused on merchandise. Whoever joins will have some fairly large shoes to fill and will likely be someone with considerable industry expertise.

     

    RESOLUTION OF MARTIN + OSA

     

    This concept targets 25 to 40 year-olds and was launched in fall 2006. The start-up costs hit AEO’s EPS by $0.12 in 2006 and $0.15 in 2007. Stores have recently had some traction with new products at lower-price points but management has told investors that either MARTIN + OSA proves its viability by generating at least $350 sales/sqft this year or they will shut it down in Q1 2009. While either resolution would create upside to current estimates, the recent departure of the company’s CMO makes a full shutdown more likely.

     

    AUCTION RATE SECURITIES

     

    Company has returned slightly less than $1B in cash through buybacks and dividends over the last three years. When a number of auctions in the ARS market failed, the company froze its buyback to make sure it had more than enough capital to continue growing in an uncertain macro environment. The company has since secured a $175MM credit line of which only $75MM is currently drawn.

     

    Auction Rate Security

    05/03/08

    Discount

    Discounted Value

    Student Loans

    209

    50%

    105

    Corporate

    57

    40%

    34

    State & Local

    100

    30%

    70

    Total

    366

    43%

    209

     

    AEO’s ARS are government backed and likely to ultimately recover close to fair value but in the present environment it is fair to apply a discount. Auctions on $286MM of these securities have failed and thus the company will likely hold them at an average yield of 6% for the next few quarters. AEO had to reclassify its investment in ARS investments from short-term to long-term investments and thus it is effectively ignored by the street. If and when the ARS market clears, this excess cash will likely be used to buyback shares. AEO bought back $172MM, $154MM, and $451MM worth of stock in 2005, 2006, and 2007 and the company still has an additional 41.3MM shares authorized through 2010

     

    AEO’s chairman, Jay Schottenstein, owns 7.5% of the company and his relatives own another 7.5%. He bought a million shares for around $24/share in Q3 2007.

    Catalyst

    Reception to new merchandise to be released second week of July, analyst day on July 15th, new CMO announced by end of year, reinstated buyback (hopefully by the end of the year), resolution of MARTIN + OSA (end of the year), monetization of investment in ARS.

    Messages


    SubjectComments and Question
    Entry07/07/2008 05:55 PM
    Membercanuck272
    Sandman - You left a big gap between "Good" and "Bad". as a fellow AEO shareholder, it seems to me that the >20% EBITDA margins might never come back, and that a good, middle of the road normalized estimate might be 15-17%, in line with ARO. That gives you around $500mm of EBITDA, still attractive, but not quite as much. What do you make of the fact that the insiders have not bought any stock since February? Shottenstein has not been shy in the past about buying at the right times, and he certainly has the resources to buy more.
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