On December 1st, with a short-sell report I wrote on L Brands (LB) and published by Seeking Alpha (note: that was the last article I submitted to Seeking Alpha – you can now find my work on Simply Wall St.)that I used to launch the Short Seller’s Journal, I explained why L Brands was a great short idea at $96. Here was my rationale:
L Brands (NYSE:LB) is a specialty retailer that operates the Victoria Secret and Bath & Body Works chains. It also operates La Senza, a Canada-based intimate apparel retail concept, and Henri Bendel, a highend accessory products brand. The stock has run from under $7 in March 2009 to its current (November 27) price of $96.68. In that time period, it has outperformed the S&P 500 by over 350%. But, in the context of rapidly slowing revenue growth, declining operating margins, increasing financial leverage and a likely pullback in consumer spending, LB’s stock is extremely overvalued relative to its underlying fundamentals and relative to its peers. In my view, LB represents a compelling opportunity to short the highly overvalued stock of a company operating in a business sector facing significant economic headwinds.
Here’s how the LB short performed from 12/1/15 to present, after reporting an pre-arranged “beat” of Wall St’s earnings estimates (the big game that has developed over the years is for management to “wink wink” walk Wall Street’s robotic analysts’ quarterly estimates down to a level below the actual numbers the company plans to report) but was forced to warn about the rest of the year:
As you can see, shorting LB on December 1, 2015 has significantly outperformed the XRT retailer ETF. It has also outperformed going long the S&P 500 by a factor of nearly 400%. Nothwithstanding what to me was the onset of a consumer spending recession and an obviously overvalued stock market, LB at the time was overvalued relative to both the stock market and the retail stock sector:
The traits specific to LB, and that is based on information that is freely available to anyone who is motivated to do the research, included: a stock priced for perfection, aggressive debt issuance to finance huge share repurchases, heavy insider dumping of shares into the share repurchases and a stock valuation far in excess of industry peers.
Despite the inexorable grind higher in the Dow, SPX and Nasdaq indices, hundreds of stocks are either at 52-week lows are getting ready to embark on a “price-seeking” mission to find their 52-week lows. Just ask the Dick’s Sporting Goods (DKS) or Advance Autoparts (AAP) bulls. LB, DKS and AAP are examples of stocks will get cut in half at least two more times in the next 12-18 months.
The Short Seller Journal was launched with the goal to expose the truth about the stock market and the truth about the manipulated economic and earnings reports fabricated with the intent to support the most over-valued stock valuations in history and, more important, to use those truths to find short-sell ideas that will outperform long strategies. LB is an example of the types of ideas uncovered by the Short Seller’s Journal.
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