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.
WYND reported 4Q results this morning, which we found to be somewhat disappointing, though we think more idiosyncratic given healthy consumer and securitization trends. Further adjusted EBITDA of $240M was in line with consensus and versus our $239M, though with several puts/takes. WYND’s tour growth in 4Q increased only 2% y/y, versus an implied guide of >9% y/y, and the new owner sales mix declined 40bp y/y, as WYND scaled back marketing/sales centers. It appears that decision was made to achieve prior guidance, which doesn’t seem encouraging to us.
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.
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.
Earnings season has really just begun for our coverage, with only three companies reporting thus far (LVS, WYNN, and RCL). We have 10 observations to highlight with 10 charts, including takeaways from our earnings, read-throughs from other industries, and other non-earnings developments within our coverage.
We believe the timeshare industry for branded companies is more resilient than understood. The memory of 2008-2009 and the financial impact to the industry is still familiar for investors, but that period was unique for the industry compared to prior recessions, and the industry has also since made many changes for the better, in our view.
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.
This week we were on the road for two days with WYND management, including CEO, CFO, and IR. The meetings were positive and investor turnout was also positive, in our opinion.
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.
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