Trading diary entry: Purchase of Kotipizza

This post continues my unpolished “Trading diary entry” series, this time about Kotipizza, which I bought about two years ago and erroneously sold by end of 2016 “because high P/E”, and now bought back of continued good performance.

My original and more detailed writeup from 1,5 year ago can be found here

6.10.2017: Bought Kotipizza shares @ average ~14,2 eur/share

I made the purchase because the growth this year has been 18% and in september the growth accelerated to 25 %, yet the forward P/E per my own extrapolation based estimate is only 16.

This is too low relative to theoretical value because of low beta, no reinvestment needs and growing very fast, justifying 20+ P/E multiple.

The position is now 5%. The trade execution was 2,5% at the time two times a row, so it was barely within the 2,5% per trade rule.

But the first trade was made as I was looking at the stock at work after the (excellent) september system sales release, and the boss came to the office, so I panicked and pushed the purchase button.

So the trade was made emotionally which is bad (but to my defense I have been following the stock for years and more deeply yesterday and this week, so the actual decision had probably been made by some side of my brain earlier and the situation just being the trigger for action).

The second trade, few hours after the first trade, after the work day, I played around with Kotipizza’s numbers more, which basically confirmed my earlier earnings estimate for 2017E and thus implied 16x forward P/E.

I compounded my earlier trade execution error, as the decision was also made emotionally, but this time probably from “fear of missing out” because “the forward multiple is so low, because the online channel is getting traction and because the store network is expanding again and because I’m fan of the concept”.

So, I like the brand and it’s potential but dislike the management, because excess salesmanship, focus on EBITDA and strategy to purchase new concepts, not focus on Kotipizza which is unique.

The multiple is quite low and DCF models with 8% wacc and high growth in first years and then slowing growth after that, points to well over 20 eur valuation i.e. significant upside.

The question, rather than the exact revenue forecasts, is the growth trajectory and durability of earnings/market position.

The growth trajectory is partly function of appeal of the physical store concept and related marketing.

These are working excellently currently and there is plenty of room for new stores (say 50, implying 20 meur more system sales with 0,4 meur average store sales, which is probably too low estimate of current average store performance).

Restaurant concepts come and go, generally, but there are some that seems to last for decades, the likes of MCD, Taco Bell, Dominos, Pizza hut, Burger King, AND KOTIPIZZA.

Kotipizza has brand equity from the eighties and it’s the ONLY big nationally known fast food chain focused on PIZZA in Finland.

And few years ago, when Kotipizza was failing, the failing meant slower relative performance to market, not some sudden death or loss of competitiveness scenario, re the well published retail deaths recently.

People are sticky for good food and promise of consistency, that the 30+ year Kotipizza brand gives, IMO.

The store concepts are cheap to build (70 keur) so they work profitably in smaller towns, where they have big advantage because the markets are too small for big international brands and because they are the only BRANDED fast food chains option on smaller places.

This has all kinds of advantages and some people want that experience and status signaling, not kebab.

And for out-of-town people, who don’t know to what local kebab you can actually go, the branded fast food chain might be the only option.

In big cities, most of the stores are in populated living areas, not in prime retail/city center locations serving mostly the eating home market, either by store pick up or home delivery.

They are smaller local micro markets where there is no big fast food chains to compete but local kebabs and equivalents.

Now that, with the new concept and marketing and brand focus on signaling quality and sustainability, the customer might perceive that Kotipizza’s higher prices are actually justifiable, as against the old concept, marketing and brand, where the prices were higher but the (signaled) quality image low.

Actually, I think the main explanation for the sudden change in Kotipizza’s performance is the new congruence between premium prices and high quality image, as opposed to old incongruence of premium prices but perceived low quality.

As now Kotipizza’s concept, marketing and brand image is evidently working, each of the micro local Kotipizza franchises relative advantage has improved especially as the franchisees’ marketing association pounds Kotipizza’s message in national television at prime time.

Local kebabs do not and will not have this weapon.

The big growth case is the online channel, which has changed the international pizza markets where the big international brands have been winners and local kebabs the losers, per my perception based anecdotal evidence from reading stuff online and UK Dominos annual reports – main reason being lack of marketing and home delivery capabilities, and also to some extent proprietary online application where they control the channel (Kotipizza has hybrid approach, it has own app and 3rd part app called Wolt).

Kotipizza is growing 30%+ online and more and more franchisees are offering the home delivery option.

The big question regarding the valuation is how long can the growth continue and it’s difficult to give definitive answer to that.

There are a lot of local kebabs from who Kotipizza can take market share.

General retail is in trouble which will open better and cheaper locations in the prime retail areas.

When competing from the leases, Kotipizza as national brand as a lessor is an attractive partner.

In the prime retail areas the average store sales could be significantly higher than they are in the outskirts, where most stores are currently located.

In the prime retail positions the stores would be within delivery distance of lot of office workers, which could, with the online channel, boost sales significantly.

The online sales are currently 10% of sales while international at fast food chains the share is 50%.

Kotipizza will have the same IMO, just don’t know when.

The nice thing about the shift of sales to pizza apps is that people order more often and with bigger average tickets than in eating in store/via phone, at least it’s the Dominos UK experience – it’s just so low friction and so much easier to make the orders than alternatives (Kotipizza has panic button in their app, so when you have cravings the warm pizza arrives at your home with one push of a big red button within half an hour).

So, because of the growth trajectory and the low valuation, the I bought the shares

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“Trading diary”: Danske Andelskassers Bank

So, I keep trading diary of (almost) all investment decisions to keep track of them and to remember why I did what I did.

This is not “polished” blog post but quick thoughts on what was running at my head at the time of my decision. I usually don’t publish them because they are not mostly readable, but this one I decided to publish to keep the blog alive and it became readable with quite little editing:

28.8.2017 Bought additional 5% position of DAB shares @ 5,45

Today I bought additional 5% position of Danske Andeelskasser bank @ 5,45 €/share because 2017E P/E was under seven and PB 0,64.

Earnings have increased significantly as loan write downs have decreased significantly, on back of improved situation in agriculture market.

The bank has horrible underwriting history and it almost went under in financial crisis and had to be bailed out by government and later by new shareholders.

The thesis is that the bank is worth 10x earnings(2017E) or book value or 7,9-8,5 € share, vs. the 5,65 closing price. With the target prices the upside is 40-50 %.

The earnings forecast is based on Q2’17 net interest and fee income, 2016 OPEX and slightly lower net write downs than annualized H1’17 net write downs would indicate (this because they are trending down and were actually zero in Q2’17).

The risk is that the agriculture economy turns back to declining trend as opposed to improving trend, thus affecting net write downs.

The positive risk is that the improving trend continues and there is significant write down reversals, which would improve book value.

Other risk is owners and management. DAB was “cooperative bank of cooperative banks”, or something like that, and now majority holders are some funds owned by the owners of the old cooperative banks(31%). The board is selected for two years and the same guy has been the chairman for ages.

The annual reports look like political campaigns to serve the local agricultural communities, which are DAB’s main customers.

There are regional “shareholder committees” which I don’t know what they are. It’s probably some reminiscence of the old cooperative system for the mostly local shareholder-customers to “communicate with the bank”.

The bank uses its own funds and time to arrange some concerts and parties for the committee.

For non-Danish outsider it seems that the shareholder-customers hang out together occasionally and then give loans to themselves to keep their (mostly agriculture) businesses running, but I’m probably exaggerating.

Positive is that there is activist investor, Lind Invest, as a shareholder (20%) but they failed to get their rep to the board recently.

Positive is also the recent improvement in performance, which seems to have some wings. At least the management has positive outlook.

If so, there is some serious potential for multiple expansion. Someone on twitter calculated that if Q2 core earnings are annualized the P/E 4 (thank you for the idea!). My forecast is based on higher write downs so “my” P/E 7.  Nevertheless, the multiple looks low.

The business model is based on high net interest and fee income, high OPEX, high write downs and low leverage as opposed to Handelsbanken which has low net interest and fee income, low opex, low write downs and high leverage, so some discount to good bank multiples is certainly warranted, but I’m not sure it should be this high.

DAB is a local bank with 10,9 BDKK balance sheet and most of its loans are for local agricultural communities.

 

Apetit: Food Conglomerate Turnaround (Part 2)

….continuing from Part 1.

4. Problematic parts that seem well contained

As said in the Part 1, after the Seafood business disposal Apetit has only one problematic part, namely the Food Solutions segment.

But it was also shown that the Food Solutions segment includes the highly profitable Frozen Food business.

Therefore, it must mean that something else than the Frozen Food business is causing the losses for the Food Solution segment.

By cleaning out the Frozen Food business EBIT and allocated concern costs from the Food Solutions segment, it can be seen that the “something else” is losing some serious money:

Food solutions mystery

And looking at the Fresh Food business, in all likelihood it has been the main contributor for the losses, although there is only information up to 2015 (in addition to other restructurings the Fresh Food business was merged to Frozen Food business in Q1’16):

Caternet

So, the Fresh Food business has been deteriorating fast and in 2015 operating loss was -3,7 meur.

As the table shows, in 2016 the losses were probably significantly higher:

Firstly, revenues have declined compared to the 2015 partly because the legacy HORECA business is in difficulties due to weak market and partly because according to the new strategy business focus has been shifted to consumer products in retail channel.

(By clipping and gluing the merged subsidiaries it can be estimated that the revenue decline has been at least 2 meur.)

Secondly, distribution, marketing, product development and other reorganization costs have probably increased because of the shift in business focus and especially because of the new prepared vegetable mix and fresh salad product launches.

(Similarly to the revenues, it can be derived with some accuracy that the Fresh Food segment’s EBIT contribution was about -7 meur but estimate is very rough as during the Fresh Food/Frozen Food merger unknown amount of some other costs were also shifted to the new subsidiary.)

While the business reorganization seems to have caused double whammy of declining revenues and increasing costs, the effect will most likely to be temporary.

The mentioned new products are targeted for consumers and management has very high expectations for them. They play a key role in achieving Apetit’s new ambitious 20%/~20 meur revenue growth target for the Food Solutions segment by 2018.

To get indication of the opportunity, competitor (and potential acquisition target) Fresh Servant Oy AB, that services the same HORECA customers and makes the same salads and vegetable mixes for consumers as the Fresh Food business, has about 42,8 meur revenues and 3,2 meur EBIT (7,5% margin).

With the same margins and the 40 meur target revenue (20 meur existing revenues + the ~20 meur growth target), the Fresh Food’s EBIT could be about 3 meur. Add that to the Frozen Food’s 4 meur concern cost adjusted EBIT and the Food Solution segment’s EBIT could be 7 meur in the future (vs. the current -2,5 meur and vs. the management’s 5 meur vision by 2018).

More over, management’s policy to not tolerate unprofitable businesses and rationalizations made in the Seafood business before disposing it indicate that the management is willing and capable of cutting cost and getting rid of businesses that are not working out.

Therefore my conclusions is that the Fresh Food business losses should be interpreted as temporary and thus not capitalized in valuation (by say taking historical average earnings and multiplying them by x).

But to account for the likely future losses from the Fresh Food business somehow, I haircut my original valuation by arbitrary 10 meur (say 5 meur annual losses for two years).

All parts EV

The negative valuation for the Fresh Food business is slightly unfair because for sure the management is incurring the temporary losses because they think that the NPV of future profits will greatly exceeds the accumulated losses and investments.

After taking into account the net debt and proceeds from the Seafood business equity valuation looks as follows:

All parts equity value

Compared to the current 86 meur market cap the baseline upside is about 26%.

Add in the 5% dividend yield, potential catalyst from the management actions to fix the problematic business units by 2018 and significant discount to book value, the short-term risk/reward profile looks pretty reasonable to me.

5. Excess liquidity for acquisitions as result of the divestments

The previous valuation was based more or less on current facts and situation.

But as mentioned many times, the management has ambitious growth and profitability targets for 2018:

Management vision

The stated vision is to grow revenues in the Food Solutions segment by 20% mainly through the new product launches and in the Grain Trading by 25% mainly through Baltic expansion.

There are also new profitability targets for each segment.

For the Food Solutions segment profitability targets seems realistic as the Frozen Food business is already exceeding the whole segments target margins and peer companies in the problematic Fresh Food business indicate that it can be very profitable business.

As for the revenue growth target, early signs are good and the vegetable based food trend surely offers nice tail wind.

On the face of it, the Grain Trading and Oil Seed Products segments’ goals seems achievable too.

By increasing consumer products’ share in the Oil Seed Products business revenue mix the profitability “should” increase and by expanding Graind Trading capacity in Baltic by 25% the revenues (and margins) “should” grow.

But rather than try to guess what will happen I have tried to get grasp how achieving the goals would affect the valuation.

Management vision valuation

Using management’s vision numbers and same valuation multiples as in my original valuation, except for the Grain Trading business where I use 1,1xNAV instead of 1,0xNAV to reflect the management’s envisioned 14% ROIC, the share would be worth 24,5 eur/share. That’s 77% more than the current share price.

More over, if achieving the goal would take 1-3 years the 0,7 eur/share annual dividend wouls add up to 2,1/share.

Together the “best case” exit value 24,5 eur/share and the 2,1 eur/share cumulative dividends would bring the potential pay off to 26,6 eur/share and upside from the current 13,9 eur/share market price to 90%+.

Because of the new management’s clear strategy and past actions following the strategy (new products, cost rationalizations and non-core business divestments), achieving the envisioned goals seems like being decently probable outcome.

More over, after the Seafood business disposal Apetit will have approximately 20 meur excess liquidity to do growth acquisitions.

The cash could be coupled up with say 45 meur financial debt to stay at management’s target of 40% equity ratio (actual leverage potential to stay within the self imposed 40% equity ratio depends of the target companies’ balance sheets).

The 65 meur potential purchasing power would buy some serious value enhancing earnings if done in the fragmented SME market where valuation multiples are very low compared to public markets.

To get some indication of the opportunity, if the 65 meur purchasing power would be used to buy private businesses with say 8x earnings multiple, the hidden earnings potential behind Apetit’s over capitalized balance sheet is 8 meur.

That’s almost 60% increase relative to the envisioned 14 meur EBIT for 2018. Value effect would be even higher if the incremental earnings would be valued with say 10-15x earnings.

Conclusion

From decent return perspective the question is whether Apetit is worth a book value.

With all of the core businesses being profitable, growing and leaders in their industries the answer is resounding yes. More realistically, they are probably worth significantly more.

But currently the profitable core is hidden under the Fresh Food business losses. As Fresh Food business is at heart of the management’s growth strategy I’m not too worried that the losses would continue for very long.

If the book value or my base line sum of parts value, which are almost the same, is reached the base line upside is 26% +5% from dividends.

With the new management as a catalyst the short term expected return look reasonable.

But the real icing on the cake is if the management vision will be realized and if the excess liquidity provided by the Seafood business disposal is utilized in earnings and value enhancing acquisitions. For if both of them happens the potential return easily exceeds 100%. More over, given the time frame we are speaking here, it could happen within few years (for example the management vision is for 2018).

With high subjective probability for making reasonable return in the base scenario and decent probability of making high return in the management vision/acquisition option scenario the outcome distribution seems attractive for me. This coupled with margin of safety from profitable core businesses, dividend commitment and sub-book value market price.

(Part 1 of the post can be found from here).

Disclosure: Long Apetit with 7% position

Ferronordic prefs update: IPO conversion special situation

In its Q1’17 report Ferronordic Machines, a Swedish Volvo construction equipment dealer operating in Russia, announced that it’s taking first steps to (long waited) IPO for their common stock on back of excellent performance in recovering construction equipment market (volumes up 90%).

This is good news for preference shares as they are convertible to common stock if and when the common stock is IPOed.

Technicalities are a bit complex but essentially the preference share has 1300 SEK/preference share purchase power to buy the common stock in the event of IPO.

Assuming the IPO price for the common is close to fair value, then with current 1070 SEK/preference share market price one can buy the common shares with about 20% discount to fair value by definition.

In addition the preference share has constantly increasing dividends, which from next dividend payment onwards (next October) will be 120 SEK/preference share annually (60 SEK semi-annually).

The exact words of the IPO-plan announcement were that “the Board has decided to initiate the process of evaluating a potential listing of the company’s ordinary shares on Nasdaq Stockholm.”, so the IPO is not certain and the date is not known.

If the IPO is one year from now, assuming the 120 SEK/preference share total dividends and that the received common stock from the preference share conversion can be sold after the IPO (and the related lock-up period) at the same 1300 SEK total price as they were purchased through the conversion, the upside from the situation is 30%+.

With good growth prospects (Russian turnaround, growing Volvo/Renault truck aftermarket business and new product representations) and profitable operations (especially the stable after market segment) the common stock might be worth owning as emerging market cyclical growth/turnaround case even purchased at fair value.

With the preference share the common stock can be purchased with nice discount.

Disclosure: Long Ferronordic Machines with 19% position.

Older writeups:

Portfolio and blog situation update Q1/2017

Ferronordic Machines Q3: Russia turning?

Ferronordic Machines: Russia, P/E 5 and 30% growth

Cheapest stock of the week: Ferronordic Machines

 

 

 

Apetit: Food Conglomerate Turnaround (Part 1)

This post got a bit long so I decided to divide it to two parts. Part 2 can be found here.

Month or two ago a reader sent me a question about my recent purchase of Apetit, a Finnish food conglomerate, which was one of the first stocks I wrote about when starting the blog about two years ago.

Saw your recent tweet on buying Apetit – what changed in your opinion since this write-up where you passed? Will they actually divest any of the underperforming businesses? EBIT has continued to decline every year since 2011… Are management’s targets of 20m in EBITDA by 2018 realistic?

At the time of first the writeup Apetit was low P/B underperformer with many unprofitable businesses. The decision was not to invest because I didn’t see catalyst that would change the situation.

lowpbroe

But now the situation has changed as Apetit has

1) New ROE focused management and strategy

2) Divested underperforming assets

3) Profitable and growing core

4) Problematic parts that seem well contained

5) Excess liquidity for acquisitions as result of the divestments,

leading to my purchase based on thesis that the current discount to book value is no longer warranted (P/B 0,8).

More over, Apetit could be worth significantly more than the book value if the management’s new vision will be materialized.

1. New ROE focused management and strategy

Apetit’s new CEO is from StoraEnso where he was one of the architects of their turnaround.

He’s a dry engineer, sets clear measurable goals, follows them and is seemingly a cost guy; he was managing StoraEnso’s declining printing and paper business, where the focus was on cost and constant restructuring.

Apetit’s new mission is to “create wellbeing from vegetables” and vision to be the “leader in vegetable-based food solutions”. The strategy is to capture the fresh, vegetable and organic food trend which are winning shelf space in retail stores.

Biggest change is that Apetit is no more just frozing and packaging peas and carrots, but developing new higher value added products (few examples later). Slide from last CMD deck pretty clearly shows the new direction:

strategy

New products in existing businesses (like juices and berries), expansion in fresh products, new processed products in grains and new food based services and digital solutions.

Strategy is to expand organically and through acquisitions in the fragmented market.

2. Divestment of underperforming assets

In addition to shifting focus to vegetables and product development one of the key messages has been that Apetit will only tolerate profitable businesses.

From segment reporting it can be seen that there is a lot of work to do in the Food Solutions and Seafood segments:

Segments

Just recently, the Company made announcement that the Seafood segment will be sold (for about book value, which is surprisingly good price given that the segment has never made a profit), so clearly the management is living up to their words on focusing on vegetables and profitable businesses.

After the Seafood business divestment the Company is left with

1. Unprofitable Food Solutions business

2. Profitable Grain Trading business

3. Profitable Oil Seed Products business

4. Cyclically profitable JV interest in sugar production business (not shown in the segment reporting)

That is, there would be only one problematic part in Apetit i.e. the Food Solutions segment. But let’s look at the profitable parts first.

3. The profitable and growing core

Frozen Food

The crux of my investment thesis is that the “problematic” Food Solutions segment is significantly better than it looks from the surface (-2,6 meur operating profit in 2016, biggest loser in the concern).

For the Food Solutions segment is actually many different businesses/subsidiaries; a Frozen Food business (Apetit Ruoka Oy), a Fresh Food business (from 2016 onwards in Apetit Ruoka Oy but before in Caternet Finland Oy), Service Sales business (before the divestment in the Seafood business through Apetit Kala Oy, but currently probably through Apetit Ruoka Oy) and some other supporting and real estate holding companies (Apetit Suomi Oy and Kiinteistö Oy Kivikonlaita):

And looking at the most important unit in the Food Solutions segment, the Frozen Food business, it seems to be the largest profits center and highest quality part of Apetit:

Frozen food profitability

The business comprises of frozen vegetable products (mixes of carrots, peas, corn etc.) and frozen ready meals (soups, pizzas etc).

In 2015, the business had 4,5 meur operating profit with high margins and ROIC. In 2016 management said that revenue grew 5%, and if EBIT-margins were at the same 10% level as they were in Q1’16 (last known numbers) then EBIT in 2016 has been about 4,9 meur.

Reason behind the growth after many years of stagnation is the new product development strategy and the new product launches (for example the new vegetable based ice cream, vegetable based meat balls and vegetable based hamburgers).

Apetit Kasvisjauhispyörykät 240 g

Apetit Mexican kasvispihvi 170 g

As low beta branded consumer product business focused on booming vegetable sector it could be worth a high multiple (look at the international FMCG business multiples and you see what I mean), but I will go with more conservative valuation.

With standard 10xEBIT multiple enterprise value would be about 49 meur and if all of the Food Solution segment’s 0,9 meur concern costs are allocated for the Frozen Food business and capitalized with same multiple, about 40 meur.

Grain Trading

The grain trading segment buys and resells half of domestic grains in Finland and has 40% market share in exports, so it’s a major player in the Finnish food supply ecosystem.

Currently it distributes around 0,8 Mt of grains and targets about 1,0 Mt in 2018 by expanding business to Baltic and by utilizing its new export terminal in Finland.

Grain Trading

Profitability varies with grain prices and volatility. Currently grain prices are historically low so 2016 profits are probably at low-end of the potential spectrum.

If the Baltic expansion succeeds, grain prices improve and future 14% ROIC target materializes earnings could be significantly higher in the future.

The growth prospects, important strategic position in Finnish food industry and with most assets being liquid grain inventories it would be hard to believe valuation below net asset value for the segment (26 meur).

Oilseed Products

Oilseed Products segment is Finland’s most significant producer of vegetable oils as the segment has the only large-scale vegetable oil production factory in Finland. The output is sold mainly to Finnish food industry (low margin) but also to consumers and for pets (high margin).

Oilseed produc pictures

The business is nicely profitable and the revenues have been growing in recent years.

Oil Seed Products

The segment will put more focus on higher value added consumer packaged products in the future, which management expects to have significant positive impact on the profitability (target EBIT 6%).

As with the Frozen Foods and Grain Trading, the Oil Seeds Product segment has excellent market position. It’s stable, growing and profitable, so it’s clearly worth at least the net asset value but probably significantly more. With standard 10x EBIT multiple the segment would be worth 27 meur.

Sucros

Sucros operates sugar factory in Porkkala and beet sugar factory in Säkylä and Apetit has 20% JV interest in it. Sucros is the only company producing sugar in Finland so it has very good market position domestically.

The business is more or less function of international sugar prices and has been consistently profitable, excluding 2015 when sugar prices were at historically low levels.

Apetit’s share of the Sucros profits have averaged 2,6 meur in last 10 years.

Apetit’s share of Sucros net profit (Source: Inderes):
Sucros_profit

In 2016-2017 prices have recovered so Inderes analysts are estimating improving profits for 2017-2018.

EU sugar price trend 2006-2017 (Source: EU sugar price dashboard):
sugar prices

Apetit’s share of current book value is about 22 meur.

Apetit’s share of Sucros equity (Source: Inderes):
Sucros_nav

In my first Apetit post in 2015 I wrote about Apetit’s existential threat. At the time, according to the  Finnish agricultural research institute, sugar production in Finland was under threat because EU was abolishing sugar production quotas.

As of today, I have very little new to add to my original discussion except that the plant closure seems like more distant risk. There has been significant investment to production capacity and there is new contract with sugar beet farmers to secure raw material supply for few years.

The management has said that they see the 20% JV interest as “portfolio investment” and that they are currently watching where the European and World sugar market is going(@27:10). My interpretation is that it will be sold eventually as the relationship with the 80% owner Nordzucker has not been easy.

As the average net profit (>2 meur) implies good ROE for the current book value (~22 meur) so P/B=1 valuation seems appropriate.

Summary

So per the math and thinking just presented Apetit’s “profitable and growing core” is worth about 115 meur, which is significantly more than the current 86 meur market cap.

Good parts EV 2

But before diving in to that, let’s look at the problematic parts in Part 2.

Disclosure: Long Apetit with 7% position

Investing week 12/2017: Position Sizing, Millet Innovation, Indexing and Coca-Cola

Quick administrative matters

So another week of investing life has passed by and it’s time to report some results. Big things that happened were that I halved my Martela position from 24% to 12%, as planed in previous portfolio update and I moved some of the proceeds to index funds.

Current portfolio looks like this:

Portfolio update 26032017

Main reason for the reducing Martela was to get rid of excess position, not because I thought the risk/reward would have materially changed.

Reason for taking small Scandinavian market index positions (total 1.8% of portfolio) was their better than cash expected return and to lower the possible step of moving from being “stock picker” to “index saver”.

Good thing with index funds is that you can have 100% market exposure at all times, which has superior long-term expected return relative to my current setup (and to active investing in general).

My current plan is to start move cash to index funds monthly and meanwhile try to find some good ideas. If I don’t find good ideas, gradually my portfolio will shift to more and more index weighted.

Millet Innovation

But my original plan was to write about Millet Innovation, company I introduced in last week’s post. It’s a French small cap healthcare product company focused on foot care.

Their main products are focused”Hallux Valgus” or “Poignon”, a foot disorder where bones of big toe starts to move/point to “wrong” direction. They also have launched a new sport line up which includes knee pads etc.

The crux of the situation is 15x earnings multiple vs. quantitatively stalling growth on the one hand and qualitatively seemingly attractive new growth opportunities on the other hand.

As seen, quantitatively all growth numbers point to wrong direction:

Millet Innovation Growth 2011-2016E

Annual revenue growth has slowed down from ~10% to under 5% and earnings have been declining two years in a row.

Decrease in profits is explained by declining margins, partly because of increased marketing spending to launch new products.
Millet Innovation CORE EBIT margin 2011-2016E

But qualitatively the company has three short-term initiatives that point to other direction:

1. New distribution agreement in Germany for two products (out of 50 or so) with “major” drug store chain in Germany.

There was no revenues in Germany in 2015 so any increase in there would mean net increase in group revenues (all else equal).

In H1 2016 report management indicated good start for the agreement, effectively saying that “not everything has been seen from this agreement”, implying good growth opportunity especially given size of the country (similar size to main market France).

2. New light orthopedic products, which had good start in Europe and in France it was accepted to the drug reimbursement fund’s product list, which the company stated to be “turning point” for the brand (also implying good growth opportunity).

3. New sport product lineup, which has had a slow start but the company is adding marketing spending and expanding distribution channel to sport stores with goal to make it successful “long-term”.

The problem is that management hasn’t quantified what the potential means. It’s thus difficult to know should one give more weight to the quantitative or the qualitative factors, as they point to opposite directions.

As I see it, there is three potential paths in the situation.

First is that the quantitative trend is most reflective of the future trend, i.e. the growth stalls.

Second is that the qualitative factors are major game changing events, that for example the German market becomes as big as the French market, that the light orthopedic products and the acceptance to the refundable drug product list has significant effect to revenues and that the sport lineup gains major momentum.

Third is that the company more or less continues with the historical growth rate, as the historical growth has been function of expansion to new countries and new product launches, not dissimilar to the qualitative factors I’m now considering.

But as they say, no point trying to forecast what will happen but focus on the probabilities (“and playing them well”, as Baupost put it in their 2016 investor letter).

Absolute valuation

To keep things simple, if the growth stalls and the management’s guided 3 MEUR earnings for 2016 is the new normal, company could be worth 30 MEUR with 10x earnings multiple.

But if the company resumes growth to historical speed (about 7% a year for last 5 years), about 15x earnings could be the right valuation, implying about 50 MEUR fair value in that case.

But if the qualitative factors are “game changer” events, as the language used in the annual reports might suggest, the revenues and earnings could go up significantly from the current levels.

The question is of course what the “significantly” means in terms of numbers. With its deficiencies, I have tried to model what the “significant” could mean with DCF.

These are only rough guesses but better than nothing and good ground for further discussion, at least I hope so, but in the model I assume that the

  1. German segment becomes as big as the French segment today (10 MEUR), as they are similar sized countries
  2. New light orthopedic products will increase French segment revenues by 25% or 2.5 MEUR, reflecting management’s words relating to the products’ acceptance to the drug reimbursement list (being “turning point” for the brand) and by the same amount in the other countries i.e. 5 MEUR total effect
  3. Sport lineup is as big as the light orthopedic products i.e. 5 MEUR, just a guess

Millet Innovation DCF 2017-2021.PNG

Basically the model assumes that revenues double from the current levels and margins stay at the current levels. With the assumptions DCF value is about 77 MEUR or say 80 MEUR as a round number:

Millet Innovation DCF valuation summary.PNG

What the model shows is that if my rough interpretation of the management’s words about the future growth opportunities are correct there is still significant upside in the stock despite the 15x earnings multiple.

But weighted for subjective probabilities for each scenario expected value of the situation seems to be about 50 MEUR i.e. close to the current market cap:

Millet Innovation expected value.PNG

The very rough calculations show that to Millet Innovation to be significantly undervalued the “Game changer” scenario should have major probability of materializing or being significantly better than I’m expecting (doubling revenues), or the “Growth stalls” scenario to be very unlikely.

To make a call on under valuation I would need more information of the probability or magnitude of the future growth opportunities, which could be reached with further market research or with more management commentary (luckily, annual report is coming soon).

Bigger problem than the potential for growth though is that if the growth really stalls, as the last two years data would suggest, there is significant downside in the valuation (-40% per the model).

I paid about 15x earnings for Kotpizza’s stock last year so I’m not per se requiring 10x multiple for me to get invested in Millet Innovation (the level where downside would be significantly limited).

But the difference to the Kotipizza’s situation is that in Kotipizza’s case there was historical quantitative trend of 10%+ growth with qualitative and quantitative evidence suggesting that the growth would continue or be even faster in the future, with no sign of slowing down.

With Millet Innovation only qualitative factors support the future growth assumptions, so one leg seems to be missing.

Relative valuation

While the rough absolute back of the envelope (tm:) valuation suggests that the stock is fairly valued, it might still be attractive relative to alternatives.

In my first introductory post I said that Millet Innovation is partly a stable consumer product company, as most of the products are used with few months interval making the customers loyal to the good and tested brands.

So for fun let’s see how the company fares with the ultimate consumer product companies, Pepsico and Coca-Cola.

First, quick look on Coca-Cola:

Coca Cola revenue and net incoma 2012 2016

Revenues and earnings have decreased for four years in a row. But investors care about per share performance and Coke is buying back shares so it’s better to look how the EPS is doing:

Coca Cola EPS 2012 2016

Also EPS has declined for four years, so Coca-Cola seems to be in some kind of trouble. Maybe 3G would have something to give also here?

Pepsico has similar record, although more stable. I’m little surprised that Pepsico’s record seems better because I had percepetion that there has been more demands to fix/breakup Pepsico than Coca-Cola, while Coca-Colas actual performance seems worse.

Pepsico revenue and net incoma 2012 2016

Pepsico EPS 2012 2016

(Data from ft.com)

So no revenue, earnings or EPS growth for Pepsico or Coca-Cola for last four years, which is surprising for me and thus it’s very  interesting to see how the valuation multiples look like:

Comparison Coca Cola Pepsico Millet Innovation.PNG

P/Es for both companies are 26+, which given their track record looks quite expensive to me.

So relative to the big consumer packaged companies Millet-Innovation looks significantly more attractive, for it has lower P/E, more historical growth, less debt, similar ROE and qualitatively (but only qualitatively) good growth prospects.

But compared to say Norwegian index ETF, which is trading under 15 x earnings and probably with far more certain (and okay) long-term growth prospects and with far more safety from diversification perspective (company, industry and country wise) than Millet Innovation, the comparison gets much more difficult.

So despite the relative attractiveness to the mega players, as of now I will not be investing to Millet Innovations stock because of the slowing growth trend and because with my current understanding it doesn’t seem like significantly better bet than the index alternatives I have.

I will keep it in my watch list and study the business further, and if the price changes or new facts emerges, then make new decisions.

Happy hunting and until next week,

-Backoftheenvelope

Disclosure: No position

Update 27.3.2017: Bigger spelling errors corrected

 

Millet Innovation (and self rant on value/tech investing controversy)

Quick administrative thoughts

In my last week’s portfolio update I promised to do a writeup on Millet Innovation, a French light orthopedic company, to get back on reading and writing routine after having complained about my big cash position and lack of new investment ideas for quite some time.

The public promise to come up with something in writing, good or bad, seems to be working as I have been consistent in throwing one or two hours of research every day during the work week. (It was lighter than usual work week though.)

To get some context on this weeks writeup which is about growth and not traditionally low P/E, I have been primed by value investing canon to not consider growth and tech investing as serious endeavour. How ever last week I read two important articles that seem to have expanded my thinking on the matter.

First, Wexboy came with a great piece on Google and second, Scott Hall wrote a post on his transition from traditional value investor to also include growth/tech investing in his repertoire.

Of course the same topics have been on the table recently as famously non-tech investor Warren Buffett surprised the investment world with his big position on Apple.

What the articles did was that I recognized an automatic shut down mechanisms of ideas in my head, which were based on arbitrary rules like “if it’s tech or if the P/E is more than 10, forget it”, creating a non-productive tunnel vision.

Now I recognize better that’s a learned habit, form of laziness and sign of lack of imagination, for if you kill an idea automatically, you don’t have to think about it (brain likes it easy).

Sure, the arbitrary rules can save your ass few times but when you kill every potential idea automatically you lose many opportunities and are actually not thinking about them seriously ever. And hard thinking by yourself is the most important thing to do to improve as an investor.

In the future I will try to stay more open for any idea and to not categorically kill them. With that self rant, here is my this week’s promised writeup on Millet Innovation (and let it be my first attempt to expand my thinking to new areas).

Introduction

Millet Innovation is a French light orthopedic product company focused mainly on feet. They have full lineup of products under “Epitact” brand, which the company claims to be the leader in its niche in France and in other European countries.

Their main product is corrective and protective products relating to foot deformation called “Hallux Valgus” or “bunion”. As non-medical expert’s explanation, the deformation is about big toe’s bone movement to point to “wrong” direction, causing pain.

Akseli Gallen Gallela _Akka ja Kissa.PNG

Source: Akseli Gallen-Gallela “Akka ja Kissa” (“Old lady and a cat”)

Millet Innovation’s products try to prevent the movement of the bone, release pressure and protect the foot:

PROTECTION HALLUX VALGUSPROTECTION HALLUX VALGUSPROTECTION HALLUX VALGUS

Source:  Millet Innovation

Products differ from competition by being “thermoformable” to users foot and by being light and comfortable material, so that they can be used in any situation anywhere with any shoe.

With quick inconclusive google analysis competitors’ products seem to be heavier and more complex or seemingly uncomfortable to use.

Competing products:

Vaivaisenluun yötuki

Vaivaisenluun sidetuki

Vaivaisenluun suoja ja varpaanerottaja

Source: https://www.tukisukat-shop.com/ (A Finnish feet care specialist webshop)

About third of people have some form of Hallux Valgus and it’s correlated with age, unused muscles and too tight shoes and is more probable with women.

Given the prevalence of the deformation there seems to be big market potential but I don’t at this point know what percentage needs medical treatment and what percentage of those can be addressed with Millet Innovation’s products.

History

Before the corrective products, Millet was focused on protective and other foot products which brought the company up to 15 MEUR revenues in 2010.

The first corrective “Hallux Valgus” products were launched in 2012 and they have been the main growth driver up to 2015, when the revenues were about 22 MEUR. The company’s communications imply that the current Hallux Valgus product range might have reached its maturity in the pharmacy channel.

There is how ever new night related Hallux Valgus product released recently, so the growth history seems to be far from over.

Furthermore in 2015 the company launched totally new sport related lineup (for knees, shins, ankles, Hallux Valgus, toes etc.) as a new leg of growth.

Protections tibialesGenouillère Sports de GlisseProtections ongles bleusProtections anti-ampoules

Source: Millet Innovation

Financials and growth

In my mind what makes Millet Innovation interesting is that essentially they take a piece of (in-house developed state of the art patented) fabric, puts it in to a package and slaps a brand on it, and then sells it with high profit margin for consumers (mainly through pharmacy channel).

For example the Hallux Valgus product pictured at start of this post retails for 20 euros in Millet Innovation’s own webshop and the concern level gross profits after material costs are about 85%.

My understanding is that the Hallux Valgus and similar products last for few months in constant use so there is element of loyal customers and repeated business, making Millet Innovation interesting also as a stable consumer product company, not just as a growing product development company.

High profit margins continue to the bottom line. Operating margins have been 12-20% in 2010-2015 and ROE 20%+ at all times. Revenue growth has been 7% a year as new products has been constantly developed and launched.

Millet Innovation Key Financials 2010-2015

Current situation

Millet Innovation is a growing small cap with both technological product development company and stable loyal consumer product company characteristics in it.

Market cap is 49 MEUR and earnings were 3,3 MEUR in 2015 and according to management’s estimate will be “about”3 MEUR in 2016.

Thus, P/E is about 15-16 and excluding the 3 MEUR net cash ex. cash P/E about 14-15.

The valuation doesn’t imply screaming bargain but given the decade long consistent profitable growth track record it doesn’t seem like very expensive either.

In H1 revenue grew 8,8% and EBIT 5,6% but you might have noticed that the management’s earnings estimate for the 2016 was actually lower than the actual earnings in 2015. The decreasing earnings forecast despite good first half could be taken as first signs of stalling growth and that the stock is too expensive.

There was however some seasonality in the H1 revenues as the channel happened to fill their inventories, which the company is apparently not expecting to continue in the second half.

And the profits are probably expected to be pressed down in 2016 because the company has decided to increase their marketing and sales spending, which should convert to revenue and profit growth later.

Personally I’m not too worried about the expected decrease in 2016 earnings because near term growth prospects looks still attractive:

1. New light orthopedic products

Millet Innovation has recently launched new “Hallux Valgus” product for night use and similar product for thumb.

Sales started in France and Italy in H1’2016 and the launch continues in other European countries in H2’2016 and onwards.

According to the management’s verbal commentary, in France the new product launch was successful and they are expecting significant growth in the future.

One key element in the expected growth in France is that the new products were accepted to the social security fund’s “refundable product list”.

I don’t know the details of the French social security system but my understanding is that  the customer gets some money back from the fund if he/she decides to buy products that are in the list.

The company says getting to the list is “turning point” for the  Epitact brand, suggesting that the effect to revenues and profits could be significant.

2. New Epitact Sport lineup

I earlier commented that the new sport product lineup could be Millet Innovation’s next leg for growth.

It has been in the French market since H1’2015. In H1’2106 the company reported of new initiatives and investments to marketing and distribution channels, suggesting from reading between the lines that the launch has not been overnight success.

To me slow development doesn’t actually sound like very surprising if they have tried to sell the sport products through pharmacies (as is my understanding) instead of where people usually by sport stuff.

How ever, the lineup was launched in other European countries in H1’2016 which according to management’s verbal comments developed particularly well in Spain so there seems to be some variation how well the products are received in different countries and thus that the apparently slow start in France is not conclusive of the sport lineups overall potential.

Good news in the H1’2016 report was that the Epitact Sport brand/products was accepted as official partner with National Institute of Sports in France, which the company says helps build the brand.

In addition to marketing investment they have opened new distribution channel in sport stores, which for me seems to be right place for the products, so it seems that they really are trying to make the product work and that the they are adapting to the new situation and that the launch is moving forward.

3. New distribution agreement in Germany

The company signed a new distribution contract for two of its Hallux Valgus products with “major” pharmacy chain Germany in 2015 because the cooperation with the old distributor was not working.

There was no sales in 2015 in Germany which is probably the biggest potential market in the Europe, suggesting big growth opportunity in the future.

In H1’2016 the company verbally reported good progress with the new partner but mentioned that the “data doesn’t make it possible to determine full potential of the contract”.

The reports are in French and I understand very little French but my interpretation is that “full potential” could be very significant.

Just for context, if we take Millet Innovation’s revenues in France as a guide, which is similar size market to Germany,  the revenue potential could be ~10 MEUR.

The 10 MEUR increase in revenues would be about 50% from the 20 MEUR group revenues in 2015, very significant potential increase.

(But note that the 10 MEUR revenue potential in Germany would require that the distribution agreement will be expanded to include all Millet Innovation’s 50 or so products, which doesn’t seem impossible if things go well with the current products.)

Conclusion

Millet Innovation is a growing product development company. They have their own R&D department which comes up with new materials, products and patents constantly. The historical growth indicates that the R&D is high quality and thus that it’s reasonable to expect new products in the future also.

There are also some immediate catalyst that could drive the near term growth (the sport lineup, the new night Hallux Valgus products, the acceptance of some products to social security refund product list and the new distribution agreement in Germany).

More over, the products are high margin, branded, patented and differentiated consumer products that needs to be replaced with constant intervals, making the demand seem predictable and repeatable and thus potentially worth a premium multiple.

Given the historical consistent growth and the near term prospects the 14-16 PER doesn’t seem like a bad deal.

Millet Innovation is a family company. About 70% of the shares are under Millet family’s control and liquidity is thus very low, advantage for small investor like me. Salaries are reasonable (about 200 KEUR for the family member CEO) and the company pays dividend every year. Reports are surprisingly open extensive for French company.

For me Millet Innovation is very potential investment in the future because of the growth potential, branded consumer product characteristics and reasonable valuation. My french is so bad that I haven’t yet fully understood the company’s situation and products and would love some feedback from French colleagues if there is anyone familiar with the situation.

Given the language barriers I’m happy about this week’s result of meeting my goal to do a writeup, good or bad, from random stock I stumbled on this week. I’m happy that it happened to be very interesting case and I’m happy that the publicly stated goal  kept me focused on one thing for the whole week.

With that, I will continue with the publicly stated goals and promise to come up with another writeup by next Sunday before midnight Finnish time. I will keep focusing on the Millet Innovation’s growth prospects and try to get better grasp of what is happening in the company.

Happy hunting,

-Backoftheenvelope

20.3.2017 Edit: Few bigger writing errors corrected.