Approximately one-third of Boston Beer‘s (NYSE:SAM) free float is shorted at the moment. Over at the Yahoo! Finance message boards, the consensus seems to be that the valuation and increased competition are the primary reasons investors are shorting its stock.
While it’s true that Jim Koch and the rest of his Sam Adams team are facing new entrants almost every day in the craft-brewing business, it’s hard to imagine that a bunch of start-ups are going to seriously challenge the biggest craft brewer in America.
California’s Sierra Nevada and Colorado’s New Belgium have recently announced that they’re each spending $75 million to open East Coast breweries to challenge Boston Beer in its own backyard. Why? Craft beer is facing a renaissance like never before.
In 2011, craft beer output increased 16.4% by volume, while the industry as a whole shrank 2%. So, there’s plenty of room at this party, and the increased competition only makes Boston Beer a more attractive acquisition for a big brewer such as Anheuser-Busch InBev (NYSE:BUD). Similar to Monster Beverage (NASDAQ:MNST), SAM has a premium valuation because it has several suitors. When Koch is ready, he’ll set the terms under which the brewer will lose its independence. Until then, he’s King of the Castle.
In the not-so-distant past, luxury department store Saks Fifth Avenue (NYSE:SKS) was struggling. Not anymore. Since December 2009, it has achieved 28 consecutive months of same-store sales growth year-over-year.
Investors who are shorting its stock must be convinced that the end of the world is near because I see nothing that portends a collapse in Saks’s business.
While the economy has been slowly rising from the ashes over the past two years, it’s important to remember that a vast majority of Americans are working and have been throughout the slowdown. More important, wealthy consumers are spending. The results speak for themselves.
In fiscal 2011, Saks earned $74.8 million on $3 billion in revenue. That’s its best bottom-line performance in a decade. Its operating margin, at 4.9%, was also the highest it’s been in a very long time.
The Fifth Avenue store generated approximately $660 million in 2011, or 22% of sales. That works out to $1,000 per square foot. Not many department stores can match those kind of numbers.
Mason Hawkins, the longtime money manager and founder of Southeastern Asset Management, holds 14.3 million Saks shares in his Longleaf Partners Small-Cap Fund (MUTF:LLSCX). Hawkins knows a thing or two about value. Shorting Saks is almost as puzzling as shorting Boston Beer. I just don’t get the attraction.
As of this writing, Will Ashworth did not own a position in any of the stocks named here.