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TETRA Technologies (TTI) Q2 2020 Earnings Call Transcript | The Motley Fool

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TETRA Technologies (NYSE:TTI)
Q2 2020 Earnings Call
Aug 04, 2020, 9:30 a.m. ET

Contents:

  • Prepared Remarks
  • Questions and Answers
  • Call Participants

Prepared Remarks:

Operator

Good day and welcome to the TETRA Technologies, Incorporated second-quarter 2020 results conference call. (Operator instructions) Please note, this event is being recorded. I would now like to turn the conference over to Jacek Mucha. Please go ahead.

Jacek MuchaTreasurer and Vice President, Finance

Thank you, Ian. Good morning and thank you for joining TETRA’s second-quarter 2020 results call. I would like to remind you that this conference call may contain statements that are or may be deemed to be forward-looking. These statements are based on certain assumptions and analysis made by TETRA and are under — and are based on a number of factors.

These statements are subject to a number of risks and uncertainties, many of which are beyond the control of the company. You are cautioned that such statements are not guarantees of future performance and that the actual results may differ materially from those projected in the forward-looking statements. In addition, in the course of the call, we may refer to EBITDA, gross margins, adjusted EBITDA, adjusted EBITDA gross margins, adjusted free cash flow, distributable cash flow, distribution coverage ratio, leverage ratio or other non-GAAP financial measures. Please refer to this morning’s press release or to our public website for reconciliation of non-GAAP financial measures to the nearest GAAP measures.

These reconciliations are not a substitute for financial information prepared in accordance with GAAP and should be considered within the context of our complete financial results for the period. In addition to our press release announcement that went out earlier this morning and is posted on our website, our Form 10-Q is planned to be filed with the SEC on or before Wednesday, August 5, 2020. With that, I will now turn it over to Brady.

Brady MurphyPresident and Chief Executive Officer

Thank you, Jacek. Good morning, everyone, and thank you for joining TETRA’s second-quarter 2020 earnings call. I’ll give a recap of our second quarter performance and market environment, and then turn it over to Elijio to provide information on the balance sheet, cash flow, and liquidity. First, I want to recognize the exceptional dedication and performance from our employees and management team for a job very well done in one of the most challenging quarters our industry has ever seen due to COVID-19.

We are thankful that the few employees that have been directly impacted by the virus have recovered or are recovering well, and that we have not had any situations where we could not service or deliver our customers’ requirements. The board and I are really proud of what our employees and management team are accomplishing in this extraordinary environment. Turning to our results for the second quarter, we were able to deliver strong financial results despite the historical decline in drilling and completion activity. With U.S.

land rig activity down 64% to the lowest level on record, international rig activity down 26%, and active frac crews dropping at a record pace. Our second quarter revenue was only down 14% from the first quarter. When oil prices dropped in early March, we knew we were going to have to move quickly and decisively to reduce costs, accelerate some of our strategies, and get ahead of our customers’ activity declines. We took on desired but necessary actions through staff reductions, furloughs, and adjustments to salaries and benefits while also reducing third-party costs and securing concessions from our suppliers.

In parallel to field staff and the cost reductions, we also made deep cuts in our corporate and overhead cost structure. This has streamlined our decision-making and much of this cost will not return when the market does recover. Early in the quarter, we made the decision to close our Midland Compression fab plant and idle our chemical processing plant in El Dorado, Arkansas, two of our long-standing plants. While doing so, we also accelerated our focus on technology and automation, which greatly contributed to our financial results.

The combination of aggressive cost management, accelerating our focus on automation and technology, and pulling on our diverse business mix, including strong high-end offshore completions fluids business and industrial chemicals business, and a strong customer base for each of our business segments, all led to an improvement by 100 basis points in our adjusted EBITDA margins compared to a year ago. TETRA only generated $31 million of free cash flow in the quarter, which was $26 million higher than the first quarter. In the first half of the year, we’ve been able to generate over $35 million of free cash flow, an improvement of $68 million compared to the first half of last year. We’ve improved our liquidity and ended the quarter with $50 million of cash at the TETRA level and liquidity at almost $90 million.

At the business segment level, our completion fluids & product business continues to perform at an exceptional level, exceeding by a wide margin, our 20% adjusted EBITDA target for the fifth consecutive quarter. With adjusted EBITDA margins of 25.7%, we improved our year-on-year adjusted EBITDA margins for this business by 320 basis points. For the quarter, we’ve benefited from our industrial chemicals business, which outperformed the second quarter of last year in both revenue and EBITDA margins and saw a little impact from the COVID-19 pandemic. The industrial chemicals markets continues to perform well during this downturn as it made up approximately half of the second-quarter revenue for this business segment, aided by our seasonal European business, which recorded our highest EBITDA in five years.

Over a full year, we expect about 40% of the segment revenue to come from our industrials business. As previously mentioned, we idled our plant in El Dorado, Arkansas and shifted production to our other lower-cost facilities. The shutdown and transition of production and our associated customer demand to other plants has been completed. The revenue from this segment will not be impacted by this closure as we’ve transitioned all of our product to other plants at better margins.

On the oil and gas side, increased offshore revenues in the Gulf of Mexico helped to offset the decrease in activity some of our domestic onshore business. During the quarter, our international completion fluid business was awarded a large sale for a major national oil company in the Middle East, a market that is increasingly relying on higher density, higher value fluids. Our CS Neptune pipeline continues to progress with the opportunities we’ve previously mentioned still ahead of us. We have line of sight to several projects that have the possibility of materializing before year-end, but clearly, the current market environment may delay these projects as customers reassess their plans.

The Water & Flowback Services second-quarter revenue decreased 57% sequentially, mainly due to the unprecedented decline in U.S. completion activity with active frac fleets down approximately 80% from Q1. The actions that we implemented to align the business with this historical decline in activity has proven to be effective as we ended the quarter with a positive adjusted EBITDA of $400,000 despite incurring $700,000 of bad debt expense. Without the bad debt, we would have been over $1 million of adjusted EBITDA profit (Inaudible).

Our integrated projects decreased from 23 and 15 different customers at the end of the first quarter to 16 integrated projects from 14 different customers at the end of the second quarter. And we believe this demonstrates our market share gains while introducing our integrated water management offering and latest technology to new customers. Our automation solution, BlueLinx is now deployed in all of our integrated projects. Our latest de-sanding flowback technology, SandStorm continues to maintain high levels of utilization, and we continue to have more inquiries for this equipment from our customers.

While we see some increase in the number of frac crews coming back in Q3, the timing is still uncertain and the increase is coming from such a low base number that we can expect Q3 to be relatively flat with Q2. We will align — we continue to align this business with market activity by continuing to be aggressive with cutting costs, working to increase adoption of our technology and on automation, and delivering best-in-class service. Our objective is to keep this segment EBITDA positive throughout this cycle and be well positioned when the recovery comes. Moving on to our compression business.

Revenue increased, sequentially, 7% to $96 million, driven by an increase of equipment sales as we completed a significant amount of new equipment deliveries from our backlog. Second-quarter adjusted EBITDA of $26.4 million was up $400,000 from the first quarter. Compression services costs were reduced by 20% from the first quarter, compared to a 14% sequential decline in compression services revenue and a decline in the utilization from 86.5% to 82.1%. Due to the swift actions by our management team to aggressively reduce cost, Compression services margins increased 300 basis points from the first quarter to 54.9%, which is the highest gross margins in CSI Compressco’s history.

Approximately 15% of our total domestic horsepower is on standby during the quarter as customers shut-in production given the low commodity prices. The majority of our remaining units that are on standby are with our two largest customers, both supermajors, which have the balance sheet to maintain shut-in production until crude prices improve. One of those two customers has brought back their standby units into operation effective August 1st, which will have a meaningful impact on reducing our units on standby going forward. Aftermarket services revenue declined 12% from the first quarter, gross margins improved 500 basis points, sequentially due to reduced cost and favorable mix.

We closed our fabrication operations in July and sold the real estate buildings in July for $17 million of gross proceeds. As we move into the third quarter, the macro environment remains fluid as the impact of COVID-19 to the economy and demand and supply dynamics for crude oil continues to be unpredictable. Although OPEC+ actions and declining U.S. production have moved supply and demand and balance quite quickly, it is difficult to predict how long it will take to work off the inventory overhang.

We don’t expect the activity to increase in the U.S. or international in a material way for the rest of this year. The outlook beyond this year will largely depend on the outcome of fighting the COVID-19 virus and its impact on global economies. We’ve been proactive in implementing cost reductions across the company and remain committed to revising our cost structure as required based on the market look — outlook.

Overall, we’ve had a strong quarter. We managed to generate $31 million in free cash flow and improve our year-over adjusted EBITDA margins in a challenging — our year-over-year adjusted EBITDA margins in a challenging environment. Our strategies, technologies, and industry diversity continue to position the company to navigate this crisis and come through in a stronger position than ever. During these continued difficult times, our strategies to stay aligned with our core customers continue to showcase our differentiated technology, more effectively utilize the equipment and personnel, exploit our industrials chemicals business, improve our margins, and work with customers the creditworthy balance sheet.

With that, I’ll turn it over to Elijio to provide some financial comments on cash flow and the balance sheet, and then we’ll open it up for questions.

Elijio SerranoChief Financial Officer and Senior Vice President

Thank you, Brady. Good morning, everybody. In the second quarter, we incurred $18.1 million of nonrecurring charges, of which $15.7 million was for CSI Compressco and $2.3 million were for TETRA. These charges included noncash charges of $9 million to write-off final compression assets and related inventory, $4.8 million of expenses from the recently completed bond exchange for CSI Compressco, and $4.3 million mainly for severance and other costs associated with rightsizing the organization.

I’m going to spend a couple of minutes on TETRA’s balance sheet and capital structure now. Brady mentioned that we generated $31 million of free cash flow on a TETRA-only basis. This was achieved despite the incurrence of severance and restructuring-related costs. Also in the period where many operators are struggling financially, we were able to collect significant amount of receivables to materially improve working capital.

Our water management and flowback segment incurred approximately $700,000 of bad debt expense in the second quarter that we did not normalize for. TETRA-only adjusted EBITDA without any of the impact of CSI Compressco was $9 million in the second quarter. TETRA-only capital expenditures in the second quarter were $2.2 million. TETRA-only interest expense runs about $4 million per quarter, and TETRA-only cash taxes were on about $1 million per quarter.

So even in the worst quarter in recent history, TETRA on a stand-alone basis was able to generate enough EBITDA to cover capital expenditures, interest expense, cash taxes and remain cash flow positive in this period. We expect TETRA-only capital expenditures to be between $10 million and $15 million for the full year, which is unchanged from our prior guidance. We will continue to monitor and adjust our capital spending based on current market conditions. We expect the second half capital expenditures to be minimal and will be primarily for maintenance capital and to accelerate introduction of new technologies such as the SandStorm.

TETRA-only liquidity at the end of the second quarter improved approximately $29 million from the end of the first quarter, positioning the company to manage well into this downturn. TETRA-only liquidity is defined as unrestricted cash on hand plus availability on our revolving credit facility. We believe our cost structure and ample liquidity provide a very long runway to sustain any potential prolonged downturn. TETRA-only net debt at the end of June was $156 million with our cash on hand of $50 million.

This is an improvement from $156 million at the end — to $156 million versus $185 million at the end of the first quarter. Our $221 million term loan is not due until August 2025, and our $100 million asset-based revolver has a current borrowing base of approximately $40 million. It does not mature until September of 2023. The only significant maintenance covenant we have to comply with is a onetime interest coverage ratio on the term loan.

At the end of June, our interest coverage ratio was 3.9 times. Annual interest expense on this term loan is approximately $16 million per year. We believe we have ample liquidity to manage through this downturn. And as always, I’d like to again remind everyone that TETRA and CSI Compressco’s debt are distinct and separate.

There are no cross defaults, no cross guarantees on the debt between TETRA and CSI Compressco. I’ll cover now a couple of minutes on CSI Compressco’s balance sheet. During the quarter, CSI Compressco generated $4.8 million of cash from operating activities. In the first half of the year, CSI Compressco generated $18 million of cash from operating activities and $10.6 million of free cash flow.

CSI Compressco ended the quarter with $6-point million of cash, up from $2.4 million at the beginning of the year. The outstanding balance on the ABL revolver for CSI Compressco was only $1.5 million. Distributable cash flow was $8.4 million in the second quarter for CSI Compressco. In the first half of the year, distributable cash flow is $17.1 million.

On an annualized basis, DCF would be $34 million or approximately $0.71 per unit. This compares to the unit price at the close business yesterday for CSI Compressco of $1.05. This is not a bad yield. On June 11, CSI Compressco announced a successful exchange of unsecured bonds for secured bonds.

$215 million of unsecured bonds within August 2022 maturity or exchange for bonds with maturities of 2025 and 2026. As part of the process, $9 million of debt was eliminated. Their near-term maturities are now only $81 million due this August 2022 and all the other bonds are due in 2025 or 2026. After this exchange and given the current market condition, CSI Compressco’s mandatory cash flow on an annualized basis are approximately $75 million, including approximately $48 million of cash interest expense, $20 million of maintenance capital expenditures and $5 million for cash taxes and lease payments.

This compares to our second-quarter adjusted EBITDA of $26 million. We are comfortable that CSI Compressco is nicely prepared to manage through this downturn and the reduction in spending by the industry. Our strategy to address the $81 million of August maturities is to accumulate $10 million to $25 million in cash between now and August of next year to repay a portion of the $81 million and to refinance the balance. We believe that given our financial performance and the actions we are taking to manage costs and to create liquidity that we will find partners for this refinancing.

In the second quarter, CSI Compressco initiated a series of actions to monetize assets. These actions are expected to generate $26 million of cash flow from the sale of idle or underperforming assets. We will continue to evaluate all the assets in CSI Compressco’s fleet and those assets that might not generate the returns, and the consistency of earnings will be target for monetization to create additional liquidity. CSI Compressco’s net leverage ratio was 5.1 times at the end of the second quarter, down from a high of seven times at the end of Q2 2018.

And as a reminder, none of the outstanding bonds have any maintenance covenants for CSI Compressco. Both TETRA and CSI Compressco had solid second-quarter results. CSI Compressco completed a bond exchange that pushed out a significant amount of near-term maturities and is in the process of generating significant incremental liquidity to begin — to further improve the balance sheet. We like where we are given the market environment.

I encourage you to read our news release from this morning and CSI Compressco’s news release from yesterday for all the supporting details and additional financial and operational metrics. Ian, with that, we’ll now open the call for questions.

Questions & Answers:

Operator

(Operator instructions) Our first question today comes from Stephen Gengaro of Stifel. Please proceed.

Stephen GengaroStifel Financial Corp. — Analyst

Thanks. Good morning, everybody.

Brady MurphyPresident and Chief Executive Officer

Good morning.

Stephen GengaroStifel Financial Corp. — Analyst

Can you — I guess a couple of things, but can you start with — if we think about the the completion fluids & products business in the quarter and sort of how we should think about the path to the third and fourth quarters as far as what’s going on with activity in the U.S. offset by the European business, which I think you mentioned had the best quarter since 2Q ’15 in the second quarter? And how that — what kind of decremental margins we should think about as well?

Elijio SerranoSenior Vice President and Chief Financial Officer

So, Stephen, good question. As you and everybody realized, our second quarter is our peak seasonal activity in our European business, and those margins are not much different than the overall segment margins. So I think that the transition from Q2 to Q3, and potentially Q4, will continue to leave us with EBITDA margins for this segment in the 20s. We have now a significant trend of consistent performance being in the mid-20s.

Brady mentioned that we have picked up a significant asset product sales to go into the Middle East in the second half of the year. And I think that will benefit us and offset some of the decline that we’ll see from the seasonal drop in TCE. So all the data points that we have tell us that our margins will continue to run in the mid to low 20s.

Brady MurphyPresident and Chief Executive Officer

Yes. Stephen, I’ll just add a little bit to that. As you’re probably aware, outside of the European seasonal peak that we see in Q2, most of our oil and gas revenue comes from the offshore piece of the business. And not so much on the U.S.

— not affected by the U.S. land decline. That business has actually held up very well from us. We talked before about some of the major awards that we had this — at the end of last year, at the beginning of this year.

We continue with that success with a major award in the Middle East. And so our outlook for our completion fluids business really has not changed much in this environment.

Stephen GengaroStifel Financial Corp. — Analyst

Great. And is that Middle East product sale a third or fourth quarter event or do we not know yet?

Brady MurphyPresident and Chief Executive Officer

It will go across both quarters.

Stephen GengaroStifel Financial Corp. — Analyst

OK. Thank you. And then just as a follow-up, I mean across the oil service world, we’re seeing a lot of working capital liquidation and you guys did a really good job in the second quarter and TETRA-only free cash flow was very strong. Elijio, how should we think about working capital in the second half of the year?

Elijio SerranoChief Financial Officer and Senior Vice President

So let me emphasize one data point that I made in my script to make sure that the investment community really absorbs it. TETRA, even without monetizing all the working capital, the EBITDA, the TETRA-only generated covered interest expense, maintenance capital expenditures, growth capital expenditures, cash taxes, I think that’s a significant accomplishment that others in the industry will not be able to pound their shift that they accomplish the same. Now you’re right, we monetized a lot of receivables. As activity slowed down and didn’t ramp up, I would hope that there’s a balance in activity and we start to build receivables, and then the opportunity to monetize incremental working capital is minimal.

If we stay flat from today’s run rate, I think we remain slightly cash flow positive. And if we see a big ramp up, like I mentioned, then there’s a scenario to where we will burn a little bit of working capital rebuilding the receivables. If things further deteriorate, we will continue to monetize working capital. We think that we’ve seen a bottoming out in the second quarter.

And given some of the wins that Brady mentioned that we got slightly positive momentum going into the second half of the year to where the amount of cash coming from working capital will be minimal.

Stephen GengaroStifel Financial Corp. — Analyst

Great. Thank you.

Operator

(Operator instructions) At this time, we have no further questions. I’ll now turn the conference back over to Brady Murphy for any closing remarks.

Brady MurphyPresident and Chief Executive Officer

OK. Thank you, Ian. We appreciate your interest in TETRA Technologies, and thank you for taking the time to join us this morning. This will conclude our call.

Operator

(Operator signoff)

Duration: 25 minutes

Call participants:

Jacek MuchaTreasurer and Vice President, Finance

Brady MurphyPresident and Chief Executive Officer

Elijio SerranoChief Financial Officer and Senior Vice President

Stephen GengaroStifel Financial Corp. — Analyst

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Fashion

Fashion Briefing: Fashion’s emerging founder-investors are mega-influencers – Glossy

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Fashion Briefing: Fashion’s emerging founder-investors are mega-influencers – Glossy

Fashion’s OG Instagrammers are building empires and, at the same time, growing their influence beyond the industry.

After being schooled for years on the workings of the fashion industry, mega-influencers including Danielle Bernstein (2.7 million Instagram followers) and Rocky Barnes (2.5 million Instagram followers) are graduating to careers less reliant on brands. To take it to the next level, they’re leveraging their prowess and communities, driving deals with effective business partners, and evolving their focus, based on the industry’s direction and their own passions. The emerging results, for both Bernstein and Barnes, are personally-backed brands and investment portfolios set to expand based on early successes.

“The plan is to grow, in a big way,” said Bernstein. “I’m a serial entrepreneur, so I’ll always want to introduce new businesses and categories to my brand. And I’m angel investing and joining the board of advisors for so many companies. That’s the future of the creator economy: harnessing and creating community around your existing followers and then figuring out how to monetize that.”

In 2019, upon inking a licensing deal with New York-based clothing company Onia, Bernstein launched the Shop We Wore What e-commerce site, populated with her expanding We Wore What fashion collection. The collection has been at the center of much recent controversy, due to allegedly including copycat designs. According to Bernstein, she turns to vintage pieces, editorials and travel for inspiration. Bernstein’s also become an investor and advisor for hair supplement company Wellbel and CBD brand Highline Wellness. In May, she became active on Patreon, offering exclusive video content to paying members of her community.

In addition, Bernstein heads up We Gave What, a charitable arm of her company. In 2019, she launched tech company Moe Assist with a project management tool for influencers, though its social accounts have been inactive for two-plus months. When asked for comment, a spokesperson said Moe Assist is in a new fundraising stage and “should have news to share shortly.”

Barnes, meanwhile, partnered with Reunited Clothing to come out with her apparel company, The Bright Side, in December. And she recently became a first-time investor-advisor, for 6-month-old SMS shopping platform Qatch. She announced the partnership in an Instagram post on Monday.

“I feel like a grown-up,” she told me, before confirming that she’s interested in investing in more companies. “Diversifying my business has been a really big [focus] for me. I interact with so many different brands and companies on a daily basis. Using my market knowledge in ways that can help other people is fulfilling and exciting for me. And I especially love when I can be involved with a company from the beginning.”

Building on their content creator role in fashion is a natural progression, both said. And it plays into many industry shifts: On its way out is fashion’s DTC era, largely fueled by Harvard Business School and Wharton graduates using a plug-and-play, marketing-heavy business model to launch brands. More consumers are prioritizing quality, differentiated products, making industry experience and style expertise greater virtues among insiders. At the same time, consumers are increasingly taking shopping cues from relatable, platform-native celebrities, moving on from authoritative editors and more closed-off celebrities.

The school of collaborations
The collaborator-to-founder shift isn’t the newest thing. Other longtime influencers that have made the pivot include Arielle Charnas, with Something Navy; Aimee Song, with Song of Style; Rumi Neely, with Are You Am I; the list goes on. Most often, the names behind these brands don’t have formal design and business training — for her part, Bernstein said she “went to FIT for two years, but didn’t study design and production.” But, for years, they’ve worked hand-in-hand with companies to bring their visions to life. And along the way, they’ve come to know what resonates best with their vast communities, from marketing to merchandising to product.

“My most successful collaborations have led to the largest share of my business,” said Bernstein.

Bernstein’s partnership with Onia came out of her swimwear collaboration with its Onia brand, in May 2019. On the collab’s launch day, it drove $2 million in sales, and an included style was the brand’s best-selling swimsuit of the summer. Also in 2019, Bernstein collaborated with Joe’s Jeans on multiple denim collections. The launch day of the first, in March 2019, marked Joe Jeans’ best sales day to date, said Jennifer Hawkins, the brand’s svp of marketing and innovation on a Glossy Podcast in October.

Both served as learning opportunities for Bernstein, who said — as with all of her collaborations — she took full advantage: “It was never just [uploading] a post, and then I went away,” she said. “I always wanted to know how the performance was, in terms of sales, and asked questions: ‘Can you share the analytics?’ ‘What did you see on your end?’ ‘What worked and what didn’t work?’”

She added, “They provided a ton of data, in terms of what I could sell and what the market was missing.”

Likewise, she said, she always followed and shared with partner brands the Instagram Insights and Google Analytics numbers around her corresponding posts. Doing so gave all parties a 360-degree view of a collaboration’s success.

“I’ve learned what works for brands so they get the largest return on their investment,” she said.

For example, she’s learned to lean on her audience’s tastes, versus rely on her own, by allowing them to offer feedback throughout the design process through Instagram. That’s included the selection of fabrics and colors and the fit sessions with models. She only spotlights her favorite styles and what she wears in her own social posts, as a play for authenticity.

According to Bernstein, the collaborations with brands allowing her to play an advisor role — by guiding them on influencer partnerships, marketing and messaging — are always more successful. And they often turn into longer-term investment or advising partnerships.

Bernstein chose to work with Onia on the We Wore What collection based on its prioritization of quality and fit, and ability to keep to affordable retail prices. Currently, prices on the We Wore What site range from $20, for a scrunchie, to $228, for a vegan leather jumpsuit.

Barnes was also ready to go out on her own after finding the right partners. Her Reunited Clothing partnership came after working with the company to create her Express product collaboration, in early 2019. On its first-quarter 2019 earnings call, interim CEO Matthew C. Moullering said the company had seen “a strong start to [the] collection both in-stores and online and [believed] it [was] helping to introduce the brand to a new audience.”

“Having your own brand is terrifying,” Barnes said. “But I like that I’m in control and not so dependent on doing the day-to-day posts promoting other companies.”

But, she added, “One of the huge benefits of working with all these different brands on all these different projects is that we’re constantly getting introduced to new people and seeing who we like working with.”

Barnes’ internal team consists of her husband, who’s the “business brains” of the company, she said, and an assistant.

Like Bernstein, Barnes stressed the need for outside support in the production process: “I love such quirky, crazy things, but I also understand what is realistic for a buyer and a normal girl buying clothes,” she said. “The experience of taking ideas and making them work for a bigger group of people was my learning curve going into a business. It’s important to have a good, diverse team around you who can make your idea something that’s marketable.”

For its part, We Wore What has seen “200x growth in the last year,” as it’s expanded to new categories, Bernstein said. Its ready-to-wear, swimwear, resort wear, and activewear are now sold in “dozens and dozens of retailers around the world,” many of which offer style exclusives; they include Revolve, Bloomingdale’s and Intermix.

“Launching my own brand was putting the proof in the pudding for the power of influencers, when it comes to selling product,” she said.

As with her Joe’s and Onia collaborations, Bernstein sees a rush-to-buy with We Wore What product drops. “The first 10 minutes is when we see the biggest portion of our sales for the entire collection,” she said.

To build buzz, Shop We Wore What’s Instagram account (213,000 followers) features in its Stories the line sheets of the soon-to-launch styles, allowing customers to thoughtfully plan their buy. Doing so has led to lower return rates, Bernstein said. The company’s marketing mix also includes text messages and emails, VIP discounts and user-generated content.

Bernstein has a staff of four people, which include a chief operating officer and a brand coordinator. She said she prioritizes establishing partners with skills and expertise she doesn’t have, so she can learn from them along the way. Ideally, she’d have learned about tech packs, fittings and production logistics in school, but she’s training as she goes.

Moving forward, Bernstein said she plans to extend the size range of We What What styles, which are currently available in sizes XS-XXL, and launch collections with collaborators to sell exclusively on her brand’s DTC site. In addition, she aims to eventually open “experimental” physical retail, starting with pop-ups.

As for her investment-advisor portfolio, she’s currently in talks with companies centered on the concepts of “being able to sell your closet and even rent your closet.”

As for Barnes’ Bright Side, she said it will hit “a bunch of new retailers this year.”

Moving beyond fashion
Up next for Shop We Wore What is a new product category that will hit before the holiday season. Considering her passion for home furnishings and decor — based on her @homeworewhat Instagram account (7,500 followers) and recent press coverage of her new SoHo loft — it’s a safe bet that a home-related category is in the cards.

Likewise, Barnes hinted at a future Bright Side home collection, following her recent, two-year home remodel, which she’s getting set to debut on social media.

Lifestyle brands are the clear goal.

“I would love to be a combination of Rachel Zoe and Martha Stewart, just having my hands in everything and creating this really beautiful lifestyle where you can entertain and be fashionable,” Barnes said. “That’s kind of the dream.”

She added, “Fashion is where my heart has always been, but I’m growing as a person and there’s so much more in my life right now: my family, my home — and I’m getting older, so beauty [and skin care] makes sense now. Sharing all of that with everyone seems so natural; it would be weird if I only did fashion.”

As for future investments, though Quatch fits perfectly into Barnes’ world, with its fashion-tech focus, she said she’s open to investing in any company where she sees opportunity.

What’s more, she has no plans to retire from social media, though she has yet to tackle TikTok.

“People’s need for content has only increased, so I’m posting and creating content more than ever,” Barnes said. “But I’ve learned to become more of a hard-ass with brands. The companies that are willing to work with me and [facilitate] the most like authentic relationship possible are the ones I move forward with.” Reunited can attest.

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South African bowler Tabraiz Shamsi: Amateur magician; professional tweaker-trickster

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Harry Potter fans would know this as the Room of Requirement; muggle cricketers dub it backend operations. Tabraiz Shamsi is an amateur magician. He is also a professional worrier of why some googlies don’t turn as much as he’d want, in cricket.

For the Proteas chinaman bowler, the room of requirement from where he could pull out any game data, used to be the dependable ‘P Dawgg’, former South Africa analyst Prasanna Agoram combining his ken and nous and fast processing laptop. Prasanna enviably would be privy to the trial (and error) runs of Magician Shamsi’s classical Tourniquet coin-drops with the cricket ball. Which was the unglamorous, quirk-in-progress of his left-arm leg spin.

At the stroke of 1 a.m, oftener than not, Shamsi would come looking for what he called ‘shit balls’, in what Prasanna reckoned were otherwise impressive, less-than-run-a-ball bowling spells. This was that one specific delivery that went for a six to sully Shamsi’s 4-0-22-3 T20 match figures. It was the bugs, not the features, that the 29-year-old would cussedly fixate on.

“I’d never point out that he’s missing his length or the back foot was collapsing, at 12.30 in the night. Because Shamo, you see, would then take me to the nets at 1 a.m! He’s capable of calling the manager and telling him at that hour that I have to practice NOW. You had to be careful about what you told him at 1 a.m,” Prasanna laughs, underlining ungrudging admiration for the Proteas spinner’s dedication.

A series of self-recriminations in staccato would follow the ‘Bhai, can you please put on the shit-ball that went for a six.’ “He’d curse himself watching replays: ‘no good, not international class, garbage ball.’ If you try telling him it is ‘well-played’ from Jos Butler and not exactly a poor ball, he’d be hard on himself and say, ‘This is nonsense from Shamo’,” Prasanna recalls of his exacting standards.

For, the South African World No 1 spinner – who lends mystery to the Saffer bowling attack if not entirely upstaging their thunderbolt battery of pacers – knows that all sleights of hand, can come with uncontrollable twists of fate. Both in magic, and cricket.

A young boy of 15 at Paarl who tried to bowl quick like Wasim Akram and Chaminda Vaas, had wound up as a left arm leg spin all-sorts, after years of compulsive fine-tuning. And taken failures and omissions into his run-up’s five-strides.

***
Born in Johannesburg, Shamsi wanted to be a super quick in the land of bolting pacers. His progress though didn’t follow the regular route of being identified early for First teams at schools and playing age-groups. Also, he was told he wasn’t quick enough.

Speaking to the podcast ‘Pavilion conversations with C.S’ recently, Shamsi recalls his earliest break at age 15, bowling alone in the school nets, with the cricket coach’s office nearby. The coach would stop by and ask him what he was upto. “I said, ‘Sir, the U15 trials are coming up. I want to make the Paarl team wanna progress’. He told me – you are not gonna make it. But even there I thought he realised the type of character I am. That was just his way to push me even harder. He said ‘Don’t waste your time practicing coz you won’t get selected. And i was even more driven,” he told the host Mr. Chiwanza.

Shamsi would end up with most wickets that tournament, make the B team (“Still not A”), followed by U17 and U19s for the local side. “I didn’t get selected for SA U19s or invited to camps. My past was little different. In fact I got my opportunity at semi-pro cricket because one player got selected for U19s and went to the World Cup. A spot opened up because of him. I just knew that was my chance I had to make it work. And fortunately I performed. When he came back from the World Cup, he couldn’t get into the team,” Shamsi recalled.

It was around 2015-6 after he had zeroed in on Chinaman as his chosen bag of assorted tricks in franchise, provincial cricket, that he first sought out Prasanna, while closely following senior leggie and his ‘bruv’ Imran Tahir. Prasanna promised to compile a list of outstanding T20 spinners of that year for comparison, when Shamsi asked him: ‘Why just T20? I want to play all formats.’

Prasanna promised to revert after two days on Friday, and on Monday, he had a message from the hotel lobby at 10.30 am that Shamsi was waiting. “Normally, cricketers will turn up at 11.30, if the analyst time is 10.30. This guy made me abandon my breakfast and was ready with a list of questions. I’d prepared a presentation earlier on bowlers like Warne, Ajmal and Herath and how they bowled on unhelpful tracks, what lengths to bowl at what stage, and offered to email it to him. He tells me: “No. I’ll write it down in my own words. I don’t want shortcuts.”

Shamsi would sit and plan for every batsman – his notes diary in tow, even on matchdays when he wasn’t in Playing XI. And once he would spill the beans on why brainwaves struck him at 1 a.m – his preferred time to brainstorm with the analyst. “He once told me he eats my brain at that hour, so that he gets dreams of how to get a Kohli or Sharma out, so he can wake up next day he can execute the training plans.”

Once he came angsty about his googlies not spinning as much as Kuldeep Yadav or Brad Hogg. “When he said it’s not spinning, I told him Shamo’ you didn’t bowl any googly. That’s it. He hit the nets and bowled 1000 googlies non-stop and then said, he’s now hitting the groove.”

But nothing had prepared Prasanna for Shamsi’s mic-drop in the pink ball Test against Australia where the Chinaman was fancied as it’s tougher to spot the wrist in the Adelaidian twilight. Shamsi was instructed to block for 20 balls and support Faf as Proteas were hanging on at 210-9. Shamsi would announce he would score a 50 – against Pat Cummins, Hazlewood and Starc. Finally he was unbeaten on 18. “He came back and blustered ‘If someone had suported me, I’d have hit that 50’.”

***

This constant state of ‘upbeat’ – talking up his own abilities to score a 50 coming at No 11 against Cummins & Starc – might well be the sort of swag and sizzle that the staid South African teams need at ICC tournaments. For a large part of the last 30 years, the Proteas have entered tournaments with burdensome tags of ‘talented’ and ‘favourites’ and come up short. The tasteless mocking glee of choke-jokes has run its course, and being light-weights might well prove liberating.

For all their botched run chases in 50 overs, South Africa can stake claim to the historic highest run-rally to 438. And the innings-interval remark of Jacques Kallis, the most expensive bowler in Australia’s 434, who had quipped “Guys, I think we’ve done a good job. They’re 15 runs short.”

Shamsi likes his boisterous one-liners too. And his showboating and noisy over-the-top pantomime aggression.

After starring in a T20 win against Ireland earlier, he would tell South African journalist Telford Vice, “In my young age, I started as a seamer but was told I’m not quick enough to be a fast bowler so became a spinner. Grew up watching Andre Nel, Dayle Steyn, Allan Donald, that’s where aggression comes from.”

He knows it’s a double-edged sword and a bowler can be packed off, but it can disrupt batters too. “Whatever it takes to win. I’m in charge of making our presence felt on the ground and ensure the team never backs down from opponents,” he added.

Shamsi recently responded to Darren Sammy’s tweet on who would win the T20 World: “Come on skipper, you know the answer to this already…. South Africa of course.” Scroll down the thread, and some mocker mangles his grammar: “are you comedy me”. A good laugh was had by all. Pressure punctured.

“He’ll say things like ‘I’ll single-handedly win this,” Prasanna says, “Whether it happens or not, it gives confidence to people close to you – your team.”

***

Shamsi’s made it to the top of rankings, taking 49 wickets from 42 T20Is, at a strike-rate of 14.8 and averaging 6.6. There’s been a bucketful of wickets in franchise cricket and The Hundred. He’s 31 and has bidden his time to make it to the national team, and another 4 years into the Playing XI. The Wicket then, is an ocassion to celebrate, he reckons.

“I’m a human being and not a robot and want to make long-lasting happy memories that will live with me forever long after my career is done and that is the reason behind my celebrations,” he wrote in a social media post once. “My celebrations mean no disrespect to the opponents. They help me enjoy myself, switch on and off during the game to release some pressure, and put some smiles on people’s faces too.”

There’s the “Shoe” that got going in the West Indies, where within seconds of a wicket, he’d shrug his ankle open from the left shoe and pretend to speak on a landline receiver. Then there’s the bus driver-celebration with Carlos Braithwaite and something about a birdie’s chirp. A flying kiss to the wife and a mock punch to a fielder like a streets hip hopper. Though the untold back-stories raise anticipation of what he’ll whip up next.

Prasanna says there can be new hairdos before every game, sometimes “thrice a week”, and that magic tricks and celebrations are practiced as diligently as the googlies and top-spinners. “Not only will he say, ‘Tomorrow I’ll get Ben Stokes out.’ He’ll also ask you to watch the celebration.”

Amongst his most famous on-field triumph-trumpetings after snaring a batter is pulling a wand out of a hankey – a magician’s staple. But never in cricket, where magic’s glossary is slathered on the slow bowlers and their guiles.

T20 commentators love his name, lending it a South American football match caller’s vroom: “Shaaa-mzzziii”. But it’s the celebrations that can befuddle the most trained of raconteurs. When Shamsi got Wihan Lubbe in the Mzansi Super League, the commentator would build up to the expected celebration. “Is the shoe coming off? No. Look at that…it’s magic,” he would chortle. Cricket was momentarily put to the side, before he resumed confused: “That was a legspinner…… Beg your pardon… Offspinner… That did the trick..” Shamsi’s delivery had jagged away from the leftie and the post-celebration left the commentator’s mind in knots.

Appearing on the Dan Nicholl Show in SA, Shamsi had pulled one of those ‘I can guess the card pulled out of the deck after being shuffled’ tricks. It was ace of spades.

Magic had been his fallback option till age 16, he’d say. “So if cricket doesn’t work out… I ll practice magic for 10 years… But naa… It’s gonna work out.. I’ll bamboozle you all,” he would say, charming the audience.

At the start of the magic gig, Shamsi had handed a sealed envelope to the host. “Sealed with Proteas saliva” Nicholl had joked with whispered reverence. The distracting envelope had briefly become the centrepiece, and Shamsi would explain later:
“You satisfied you made me stop shuffling when u wanted me to? Funny thing is…You thought you were in charge of the trick… Telling me when to stop. Even though it’s your show, I’m running this party… I was controlling you and I actually made you stop at a specific point. …And to prove that I had written down something in this envelope before starting the trick..” It read Ace of Spades.

Shamsi’s assortment of Chinaman, is a bit like that: planned spontaneity. Allan Donald in a video while introducing him to RCB few seasons ago, said: “Left arm, tweaks it this way, tweaks it that way, then tweaks it the other way.” Offering attacking options in the middle overs, with his ability to turn ball both ways, and variations of top spinner, the side spinner and googly, makes him effective against both lefties and righties. The constant explosion of activity – before, right after when appealing (he once did a spot of bhangra jumps, then sat down altogether while pleading a decision) and when celebrating, is in fact the sealed envelope distraction.

Yet, bad days are not unfamiliar to Shamsi, and his role can be flexible like the magician’s wand, like in the West Indies, to keep things quiet, contain against the big power hitters. “There’s two ways to skin a cat… Not really fussed about not getting wickets in WI. That was a different role,” he told the media later.

Sometimes the magic is in not believing the flimflam and sleight. Like rankings. “I don’t lose sleep over being No 1. Obviously it’s a nice feeling to be on top. But I’ve said it before and I truly mean it. I don’t even think I’m the best bowler in our team. We have some great bowlers in the unit. Rankings don’t mean anything if a batsman gets hold of you. I don’t even know how those rankings work honestly.”

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Five great Twenty20 World Cup upsets

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