Last week we lowered our Lodging sector rating to Market Weight and downgraded HST to Underperform. Our view is we seem late in the lodging cycle and we think U.S. RevPAR faces risks. See our notes with our complete thesis here and here. To be clear we aren’t making a negative call on all lodging. We’re still bullish on timeshare (VAC and HGV), which is our favorite sub-group, and RevPAR isn’t a KPI for timeshare. We also think the hotel C-Corps can still work in a tepid U.S. RevPAR environment because the asset-light business models are powerful, and efforts by China/Europe to re-stimulate could start to favor names with international exposure like the C-Corps, but admittedly we now see less exciting upside to the C-Corps as reflected by our target prices. Given the move in lodging stocks as well as slowing U.S. RevPAR the risk/reward of the space seems less compelling. Owned real estate in the U.S. seems most exposed to our view, which is the reason for our downgrade of HST to Underperform. Investor feedback on our call has generally been receptive, and it feels like sentiment is definitely biased negative. From our conversations we even sense some bearishness towards the high-quality C-Corps.
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Today (3/11/2019) we lower our sector weighting on Lodging from Market Overweight to Market Weight, and we also downgrade HST from Peer Perform to Underperform. The reasoning for the change is largely based on the idea that we are later in the cycle with soft U.S. RevPAR growth, which we do not expect to improve in the near-term.
Timeshare stocks have rallied hard since the Christmas Eve bottom, with VAC up 61%, HGV up 33%, and WYND up 39% versus the S&P 500 up 19%. However, the stocks still remain well off their 2018 highs. For example, VAC remains 35% below its prior high and HGV remains 31% below its prior high, and it’s been entirely a function of multiple contraction. Interestingly, the S&P 500 is now only 5% below its prior high and credit spreads have narrowed considerably.
HLT reported 4Q earnings this morning (2/13/2019) and beat consensus estimates – EPS ex-items of $0.79 versus consensus and our $0.69 estimate and adjusted EBITDA of $544M versus consensus of $530M and our $532M estimate. HLT missed the midpoint of RevPAR guidance by 50bp, but beat on units, license fee revenue, and owned/leased results were better. HLT also guided FY19 EBITDA above the Street, again despite lowering RevPAR guidance. We thought the report and call were somewhat of a mixed bag, but estimates are moving higher and that’s good enough for +6% in the stock as sentiment has been poor and the tape has improved.
We aggregated pricing trends across multiple vacation options/destinations including cruise lines, Las Vegas casinos, hotels in multiple global markets, airline fares, Disney resorts, ski resorts, and rental cars. The purpose of our analysis was to compare pricing trends for cruises and Las Vegas casinos to alternative vacation options to understand if recent years of pricing strength may begin to make substitute vacation options more attractive, which some investors have expressed to us.
This is a 35 page note we write each quarter where we update our thesis with new charts and preview each company into earnings. In this note we’re examining estimates and multiples during prior recessions as guides for possible downside scenarios. For our coverage we see binary outcomes: either a brewing recession or meaningful outperformance. The risk/reward setup to us seems more favorable for the latter, as our stocks seem to have already discounted a recession with over 50% likelihood, in our view, which we’ll show in the note.
We have three charts to highlight this week from some of our observations: 1) MAR’s EV/EBITDA premium to HLT has now been wiped out for the first time since the HLT spinoffs, 2) crude oil is down 38% from the highs and yet cruise stocks have also declined 26% over the same time, and surprisingly even underperformed other consumer discretionary names, 3) European PMIs have been soft and there are now incremental concerns about Europe following poor commentary from a few companies this week, so we show European sourcing for each company we cover.
Throughout 2018 cruise, gaming, and lodging stocks have been tightly correlated with the Chinese equity market, despite the fact that many of these companies have little to no direct exposure to China. So far YTD the y/y change in the S&P 500 has had a +0.61 correlation to the y/y change in the China CSI 300 index. This compares to the average of cruise stocks at +0.85, the average of timeshare stocks at +0.92, the average of hotel C-Corp stocks at +0.85, the average of Vegas gaming stocks at +0.90, and the average of Macau gaming stocks at +0.95.
Gaming, lodging, and cruise stocks have performed poorly in 2018, with the average stock down 21% YTD. A few of these stocks we cover are down over 40% YTD, and down even more if we use the highs from earlier in the year. The weakness this year has been most pronounced in gaming and in timeshare, two sectors generally with more debt (even though much of timeshare debt is non-recourse). In many cases the overall fundamental trends have been strong (i.e. cruise lines and timeshare), and it seems to us that the market is pricing in a meaningful change to the macro environment for many of these stocks. We compared these YTD returns to all U.S. listed consumer discretionary stocks with a market cap above $500M entering the year, and we found that on average gaming, lodging, and cruise stocks are in the 34th percentile for YTD performance among consumer discretionary. The weakness has also been driven by multiple contraction, with the average stock in gaming, lodging, and cruise lines experiencing 19% forward EV/EBITDA multiple contraction YTD. When compared to the same consumer discretionary group we find that gaming, lodging, and cruise stocks on average are in the 33rd percentile for YTD forward EV/EBITDA multiple change.
This week we had RCL, HLT, and LVS report 3Q earnings. We have one key takeaway with one key chart for each to highlight below.
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