Category Archives: Opportunities

Alstom SA (ISIN FR0010220475) – an interesting potential “sum of parts” play after the GE deal ?

Profitlich & Schmidlin (“P&S”) had a post a week ago (in German) on how they view the current situation at Alstom.

A short refresher: Both, General Electric and Siemens wanted to take over Alstom and/or parts of it. At the end, GE prevailed, however they failed to take over Alstom completely. Instead, they purchase the Grid, Renewables and Power businesses, leaving the Transport business at Alstom.

In order to make it more “interesting” and to please the French Government, GE and Alstom will form 3 Joint Ventures of which Alstom will buy a 50% share each. Plus Alstom will buy a transport related business from GE for 600 mn EUR. Additionally, Alstom seems to have a put option for these JV back to General Electric with a floor of 2,5 bn EUR.

So in theory, one could now use the information given for instance in the GE press release and calculate a prospective “sum of the parts” valuation for Alstom after the deal and this is how P&S have done it:

No op Assets  
Net cash 4.122
London Metro loan 364
Transmash 700
Pension, others -620
Total 4.566
Per share 14,78

On top of those ~15 EUR per share “extra assets” they add the 2,5 bn EUR for the JVs, which results in around 22,87 EUR per share for all those non-transport assets. With a “fair value” of the transport business of ~11 EUR per share they come up with their target value of 34 EUR per share, which would mean a nice +30% upside potential based on the current share price of 26 EUR.

My 5 cents on this

First of all I find it great that P&S share their investment case via their blog. This is definitely a good thing. And clearly, as with everything, it is their opinion and not everyone will agree with this. My opinion differs from theirs, but that does not mean that they are wrong or vice versa.

Before jumping into the details, I would just want to refer back to some earlier stuff I have written about holding companies. The question is: will investors really apply a “full valuation” to the operating business plus all the “extra assets” or will they discount the extra assets, especially the JVs and the other non-consolidated assets. I think it is more prudent to apply a discount to the extra assets. Unless there is clear evidence that those assets get liquidated, I think it is too optimistic to assign full value to those assets.

A second big issue is that at the moment no one knows exactly how much of the liabilities will get transferred to GE. Especially with regard to operating leases (nominal ~830 mn EUR), litigation liabilities (528 mn EUR) and pension liabilites (gross 5,2 bn) there is no definitive answer how much will be transferred to GE and what remains at Alstom. In a sum of part calculation, any of those remaining liabilities will have to be deducted from the extra assets as they are economically equivalent to debt.

Net cash position

Let’s start with that one. In their annual report, Alstom provides us with EUR -3.041 as net cash at March 31st 2014. GE stated that the whole transaction will generate a 7,3 bn net cash outflow for them which is an equivalent inflow for Alstom.

So theoretically we could calculate -3.041 + 7.300 = 4259 mn EUR net cash for Alstom. However there are several caveats to this:

- transaction costs: A transaction like this easily swallows up a large amount of costs for lawyers, consultants bankers etc. I would assume between 100-300 mn cash costs for Alstom before closing, with an expected value of -200
- mark to market debt: Although any financial assets under IFRS are marked-to-market, debt is still accounted for at cost. If Alstom would really want to buy back their bonds to shorten the balance sheet, they would have to pay market value which is ~350 mn higher than book value. So net debt has to be adjusted for this.

So for my calculation, net cash would be 4.259-200-350 = 3.709 mn net cash after closing of the deal

Transmashholding

Transmashholding is a 25% stake alstom holds in a Russian transport equipment manufacturer. P&S value this company 10x average 2012/2013 earnings at 700 mn EUR which is around 90% higher than book value. I would value this asset significantly lower because

- according to Bloomberg, the majority of the profit is “extraordinary profit”
– if we value them based on operating income (EBIT) with the same averaging, we would get on average 2800 mn Rubels EBIT p.a. (which is around 60 mn EUR p.a.) and assuming 10 times EV/EBIT we get 600 mn EUR EV. Minus ~10 bn RUB or 200 mn debt, the equity would be worth 400 mn, 25% of Alstom then would be 100 mn EUR.

Other liabilities

As I said before, we how much of the liabilities go to GE. My own assumption would be that all the critical ones (Litigation, Pension deficit, operating leases) are divided proportionally to the total amount of liabilities for the transport segment. According to the segment report in the annual report, transport had ~28% of all liabilities of Alstom. My default assumption therefore is that 28% of all “debt like” liabilities remain at Alstom as part of the transport business

Discount to extra assets

Finally, I would argue that especially as this complicated deal will only close in mid 2015, it would be quite optimistic to assume zero discount on the future cash inflow, JV assets etc etc. So I would actually discount those assets to be on the safe side with between 10-20% at the current status, as a compromise I will use 15% both, for net cash and the JVs. Just as a reminder: I am not sure if anyone remembers the planned GE – Honeywell merger in 2001. This looked like a done deal for a long time before the deal actually fell through. The deal might be very likely but there is always the risk of a deal stopper and one has to adjust for this in my opinion.

Bringing it all together & Summary:

So this would be my version of the “extra asset” calculation:

MMI
Net cash 03/2014 -3.041
+ Cash proceeds GE 7.300
– mtm bonds -350
– deal cost -200
   
Net cash adj 3.709
+ London Metro 364
+ Transmash 100
+ JVs 2.500
   
Total “extra assets” 6.673
– 15% discount JV&Cash -931
Discounted extra assets 5.742
   
– “pension others” from P&S -620
– 28% of Litigation liab -148
– 28% of operating leases -210
– 28% of pension underfunding -217
   
Adjusted “extra” assets 4.547
per share 14,71

With my rather cautious approach, i would value the potential extra assets after the deal ~ 8 EUR per share lower as P&S. Together with their valuation of the Transport business od ~11-12 EUR, the current Alstom price at 26 EUR looks fair with no big upside.

Clearly, any of my assumptions could (and should) be challenged as well. Transmash could be worth a lot more and maybe all the liabilities go to GE. On the other hand, one should not forget that the deal is not done yet. I am for instance not sure how happy the potential clients are and if I read correctly, they need approval of 32 national regulators for this deal. Plus, the French Government will be heavily involved in Alstom going forward which might lower the prospects of aggressive share repurchases and increase the risk for “strategic” acquisitions.

Alstom has proposed more detailed information in November before an extraordinary shareholder meeting. For me, at the moment Alstom is not a buy. This might change especially if most of the liabilities would be assumed by GE, then the Alstom “stub” could be really interesting. In the mean time, the stock however is “watch only”.

Bilfinger SE (DEDE0005909006) – Opportunity or Falling knife to be avoided ?

Background:

Bilfinger is a traditional German and international construction company with a history going back to 1880. As many of its peers, it tried to diversify away from the risky large-scale construction business into concessions and services. 3 years ago, Bilfinger surprised many by naming the the former German politician Roland Koch as new CEO. In 2011, Swedisch activist fund Cevian disclosed a 10% position and has increased this to 20% making them Bilfinger’s largest shareholders. Under Koch many of the traditional construction subsidiaries were sold and many new services companies were acquired. I counted 13 acquisitions in 2012 and 2013.

Up until early 2014, the strategy seemed to have worked well, margins and ROE/ROIC increased and the stock price hit an all time high of 93 EUR in April 2014.

Current situation

However since then, it seems that the “wheels went off”. Koch had to lower the guidance for 2014 2 times with quite significant impact on the share price as we can see in the chart:

Quite surprisingly for a traditional German company, he left the office on the very same day with his predecessor becoming his successor. There is some speculation in the press why this happened so fast but I think that activist investor Cevian was most likely also involved in this decision. Interestingly, Koch was buying shares for his personal account in July, so even he seems to have been surprised to a certain extent.

Falling knife vs. opportunity

I am a big fan of the saying “never catch a falling knife”. In the Bilfinger case we have a lot of risks:

- some of the many acquisitions could lead to further write downs, especially if a new CEO comes in and goes for the “kitchen sink” approach
– especially the energy business has some structural problems
– fundamentally the company is cheap but not super cheap
– often, when the bad news start to hit, the really bad news only comes out later like for instance Royal Imtech, which was in a very similar business. I don’t think that we will see actual fraud issues at Bilfinger, but who knows ?

On the plus side however we do have also a couple of arguments:

+ Bilfinger still has only a low amount of debt outstanding, so I don’t thin we will see a “Royal Imtech scenario”
+ Cevian will not sit back and watch. They have board members and a proven track record. They are usually in for the long-term but act quickly if things go wrong
+ Bilfinger does not have a majority owner and could be an M&A target
+ Bilfinger is a traditionally well-managed company
+ Analyst sentiment is already pretty bad (lowest quarter of the HDAX)

Especially the Cevian involvement looks interesting. The final target is pretty clear: By shifting the business mix more into engineering/service, they want to realise higher multiples than what traditionally is associated with “real” construction companies. Especially companies like Arcadis or Atkins trade at EV/EBITDA multiples of 8×-10. Bilfinger currently trades at around 6x EV/EBITDA, 10x EV/EBIT and 11 times earnings based on the reduced 2014 estimates. So there is clearly some potential here if they manage to stabilize the company.

On the other hand, Cevian clearly didn’t see that coming either. They actually increased their position in May when the stock traded north of 85 EUR. I would estimate that they paid around 70 EUR per share for their whole position.

Also, when we look at other comparable situations for instance Suedzucker, we can clearly see that the “knife can fall” a very long way down:

Clearly Suedzucker is not comparable to Bilfinger but it shows that one can easily lose 2/3 or more within a relatively short period of time if things og bad.

So what to do ?

Despite the lure of a “bargain” I will not invest now. For now I will stick to my principles and not catch a falling knife

What could make me change my mind ? For instance a new CEO who does not need to start with an accounting bloodbath……

“Bonus savings account” with Sky Deutschland (ISIN DE000SKYD000) voluntary tender offer

Ruppert Murdoch is reshuffling his empire. Today he announced that BskyB, his British carrier has bought the 21st Century Fox 57% stake in German broadcaster Sky Deutschland.

Under German rules, once you transfer more than 30%, you have to make an offer to all other shareholders as well. This is from the offical web site:

Offer to minority Sky Deutschland shareholders
Following the agreement to acquire 21st Century Fox’s 57.4% stake in Sky Deutschland, BSkyB has announced that it will launch a voluntary cash offer to Sky Deutschland’s minority shareholders at €6.75 per share. There is no minimum acceptance condition as BSkyB believes it can realise the advantages of closer collaboration with Sky Deutschland and support its continued growth and development with the 57.4% stake it is acquiring through this transaction.

Although no details have been published yet, I think the likelihood of this going through is very high. Consequently, the stock now trades at 6,75 EUR.

However I find this quite interesting because if you buy the stock now, you get a free put option, as you will be able to tender the stock into the offer at some point in time. Depending on the time horizon, this option is worth between 4,5-8% (30-90 days). I don’t think that there will be a higher offer or something, but based on the historical volatility there is a good chance that we see slightly higher prices. Effectively it is a 0% savings account (quite attractive these days) with a bonus component.

Of course you cannot sell the option directly, but you can buy the share and make a pretty one sided bet on higher prices until the offer expires. At current prices there is no downside risk. A more sophisticated investor could buy the stock and sell a call in order to monetize the put option.

It is to a certain extent quite similar to the FIAT case but in my opinion with less execution risk.

Just to be on the safe side: I would not buy Sky Deutschland outright, this is a pure “special situation” investment.

For the portfolio, I will allocate a 2,5% position at current prices to this special situation, my return target is 5% within the next 30-90 days.

DISLAIMER: This is not a free lunch, of course there are risks which I haven’t mentioned or though of. But to me it looks like a pretty good risk/return progile.

Short cuts: KAS Bank, April SA, Draegerwwerke GS

KAS Bank

When I invested into KAS Bank, the Dutch, the main motivation was the cheap valuation and the stable core business (custody). One add-on was that they wanted to extend their retail business together with dwp bank from Germany.

For some reason, dwp decided not to go ahead with this cooperation and cancelled it in June 2014. Kas Bank will be compensated for this according to the press release:

As a compensation for the loss of the anticipated annual saving that KAS BANK would have realised from 2016 onwards, dwp bank will pay KAS BANK a lump sum at the end of June which, after deducting the costs in 2014, amounts to approximately € 20 million. KAS BANK will use this one-off compensation to invest in further improving its efficiency and its services to institutional investors. dwp bank will focus its future investments on improving the quality and standards of its operations and IT.

20 mn compensation for a 160 mn Market company is a lot, but it seems that this contract would have been quite good for KAS Bank going forward. Maybe it was so good that dwp bank only recognized it after signing ? I don’t know. In any case, I think the “Value case” for KAS Bank is still intact. Book value should still be achievable, which would mean the stock has still 50% upside let, despite the quite satisfactory performance of +58% (incl. dividends) since I bought the stock 2 years ago.

April SA

A few weeks ago, I finally sold the rest of my April SA position. I never really explained this in more detail. When I first looked at April SA, I didn’t buy it because the stock was not cheap enough (part 1, part 2, follow up, follow up).

I only established a position when the stock got hammered during the EUR crisis, as they were then trading in single digit P/E territory and implcitly I asumed at least constant earnings going forward. Fast forward 2 years. EPS developed negatively, both in 2012 and 2013:

EPS
31.12.2010 1,96
30.12.2011 1,37
31.12.2012 1,32
31.12.2013 1,26

Nevertheless, the new-found enthusiasm for European and especially French stocks led to a significant multiple expansion from around 8xP/E to ~ 14xP/E in June. Although I still think that April is not a bad company, I had to admit that the ~63% return I made on the stock was much more luck than anything else as I don’t think that multiple expansion like this (even considering shrinking EPS) could be forecasted. Additionally, I found much more interesting alternatives in the insurance sector (Admiral, NN Group), so I decided to sell although the two years holding period were shorter than I would normally target.

Draegerwerke GS

A few days ago, Draeger revised their guidance for 2014 significantly downwards. The stock got hammered significantly, the Genußscheine lost some value as well but less than the shares.

For me, Draeger was always a relative bet, assuming that the intrinsic value of the Genußscheine (10 times the Vorzuege) would at sometime close. I never believed that Draeger itself was a “great” company. Looking at the developement of the ratio (price Genußschein / Price Vorzuege) we can clearly see that currently we are in a territory which we haven’t seen for the last 15 years:

draeger upd 2014

At almost 6 times the Pref shares, the relative risk/return ratio is not as good as it was before. With almost 7%, the Draeger Genußschein is still with a margin my largest position. In order to reflect the somehow lower relative potential of this position, I will cut the position to a 5% stake going forward.

Fiat Merger Cash Exit rights – Short term “high yield deposit” ?

Thanks to the reader who sent me this idea. Althought the stock price has risen in between, I still think it is interesting to look at this country specific “special situation”.

The Italian stock market is always worth a look as things are definitely different south of the Alps. I have documented a couple of cass where minority shareholders were the victims, but sometimes, Italian stockmarket laws actually seem to protect minority shareholders.

The FIAT merger

FIAT Spa is currently in the process to merge its Italian operations with a Dutch Holding company which holds Fiat’s interest in Chrysler.

In order to do so, FIAT is holding an Extraordinary shareholder meeting on August 1th. Now comes the interesting part: Under Italian law, any FIAT shareholder can vote against the merger (or not vote for it) and is then entitled for a so called “cash exit right”, which gives him the right to sell the shares back to the company. Normally, this compensation is a 6 month average, but in Fiat’s case the cash compensation has been fixed at 7.727 EUR per share.

Details about the cash exit rights can be found in the official prospectus.

Q: Are Fiat shareholders entitled to exercise dissenters’, appraisal, cash exit or similar rights?
A: Under Italian law, Fiat shareholders are entitled to cash exit rights because, as a result of the Merger, the
registered office of the surviving company in the Merger, FCA, will be outside of Italy, Fiat ordinary shares will
be delisted from the MTA, and FCA will be governed by the laws of a country other than Italy. Cash exit rights
may be exercised by Fiat shareholders that did not concur in the approval of the merger plan at the extraordinary
general meeting. The exercise of such cash exit rights will be effective subject to completion of the Merger. A
Fiat shareholder that has voted shares in favor of the Merger may not exercise any cash exit right in relation to
those shares. A Fiat shareholder that properly exercises cash exit rights will be entitled to receive an amount of
cash equal to the average closing price per Fiat ordinary share for the six-month period prior to the publication of
the notice of call of the extraordinary general meeting which is equal to €7.727 per share. If the aggregate
amount of cash to be paid to Fiat shareholders in connection with the exercise by such shareholders of cash exit
rights under Italian law and to creditors pursuant to creditor opposition rights proceedings under Italian law and
Dutch law, respectively, exceeds €500 million, a condition to closing of the Merger will not be satisfied.

Exercise period Timeline:

This is from the prospectus:

In accordance with Article 2437-bis of the ICC, Qualifying Shareholders may exercise their cash exit rights, in relation to some or all of their shares, by sending notice via registered mail to the registered offices of FIAT no later than 15 days following registration with the Companies’ Register of Turin of the minutes of the FIAT Extraordinary Meeting of Shareholders. Notice of the registration will be published in the daily newspaper La Stampa and on the FIAT corporate website.

If I read this correctly, this will at the earliest start with the day of the annual shareholder’s meeting, if they manage to register on the very same day. I asume that it is then 15 calender days. The money will be received on the “effective date of the merger” (A-15), which after reading the

The 500 mn EUR threshold

If more than 500 mn EUR “cash exit rights” are exercised, the merger will not take place and the cash exit rights are not valid. How big is the risk ? Fiat did the same structure with Fiat International and there, only 25 mn EUR rights were exerecised. In my opinion, FIAT will want to make this merger happen IN ANY CASE so I consider this as a very remote risk.

Stock chart

Last week, when I first looked at this, Fiat was still trading at around 7,35 EUR which would have meant a 5% upside (or 10% annualised) for this relatively riskless trade. At the current price of almost 7,60 EUR and considering transaction costs, it looks less compelling.

Nevertheless it is worth watching the FIAT stock in the next few days i there is a potential entry point if we see weakness in the overall market.

Summary:

Although at the moment, the Fiat Merger Cash Exit Rights do not look that interesting, in general this looks like an interesting short term “high yield” opportunity. I could imagine that also other Italian companies are trying this sort of cross border merger to escape onerous Italian provisions so it will be worth keeping an eye on similar situations.

Portugal Telecom follow up – SELL

In April, I invested ~1% of my portfolio into Portugal Telecom because I found the merger situation with Brazilian Telco OI very intersting.

In the last few days, the stock price dropped like a stone because they disclosed a 900 mn “investment” into the troubled Portuguese “Espirito Santo” Group

Reader benny_m post a very good comment on the old post, asking where to find in the balance sheet those 900 mn EUR.

Looking into the 2013 annual report and the Q1 2014 report, there are only 2 possibilites:

1. Cash and Cash equivalents
2. Short term financial investments

Those are the respective amounts:

Q1 2014 2013
Cash 1.276 1.659
ST investments 1.071 914

So theoretically, the could be within either category. However two important caveats from my side:

- if they would book this under Cash and Cash equivalents, this would be scandalous and reminds me very much about the Royal Imtech fraud
– in the annual report, the comment to short term investments reads as follows:

24. SHORT – TERM INVESTMENTS
This caption consists of short-term financial applications which have terms and conditions previously agreed with financial institutions.

They disclose 750 mn of “debt securities” which are described as follows:

(i) This caption includes primarily debt securities issued by PT Finance and Portugal Telecom that had an average maturity of approximately 2 months and were settled in 2014 at nominal value plus accrued interest.

This makes no sense. “Issuing” a security means actually receiving money. They cannot own their own issued securities as those would have to be consolidated out. Also the second part of the sentence makes no sense at all. Those amounts were not “settled” as the total amount even increased in Q1 2014.

To add insult to injury, Portugal Telecom actually discloses “related party transactions” with Banco Espirito Santo (BES) on page 219 of its annual report as they are a significant shereholder, but there is no word of the loans to “Rioforte” another Espirito Santo group company.

Let’s look back at the “official” press release of PTC:

PT subscribed, through its former subsidiaries PT International Finance BV and PT Portugal SGPS, a total of Euro 897 million in commercial paper of Rioforte with an average annual remuneration of 3.6%. All treasury applications in commercial paper of Rioforte will mature on 15 and 17 July 2014 (Euro 847 million and Euro 50 million, respectively). Treasury operations are carried out in the context of analysis of various short-term investment options available in the market and taking into account the attractiveness of the remuneration offered and are monitored and approved by the Executive Committee.

Additionally, it is thus important to note that the subscription of commercial paper of Rioforte is based on the 14-year long adequate experience in treasury applications of Banco Espírito Santo (“BES”) and GES entities, in the context of the strategic partnership signed in April 2000 between both parties. This strategic partnership contemplated the cross shareholding between both entities as well as the designation of PT as a preferred supplier of telecommunications to BES Group and the designation of BES as preferred provider of financial services to PT.

Both sentences are in my opinion a clear prove of dishonesty of PTC management. No, lending 900 mn EUR to a troubled financial institution IS NOT part of normal treasury operations. And second, if you have a “strategic partnership” then you shoul disclose this under the relvant section in your annual report instead ogf hiding it behind nonsensical comments.

I have actually send some simple questions to PTC IR (where did they book it etc.) but received no answer.

Summary:

At this stage, I cannot say for sure if this is “only” dishonesty on part of PTCs management or if there is even fraudulent activity involved. In any case this looks really bad and as a result I will sell my PTC shares at current prices (2,18 EUR) and take the loss (~-27%. This is a company where you can’t trust management and even less their accounts/disclosures and this is an absolute “no go” for me.

NN Group NV – “Hands off” IPO or interesting special situation ?

NN Group is the name of the soon to be just IPOed Insurance subsidiary of Dutch ING Group. NN Group sounds a little bit strange but is the “traditional” name of the Dutch Insurance company, “Nationale Nederlanden”.

As a value investor, normally, IPOs are an absolute “No go”. Benjamin Graham famously said that one should never touch an IPO because almost always, the stock price is overhyped and the risk return relationship is not good. Especially now with the market reaching new highs, buying IPOs doesn’t seem a good idea.

So why could this IPO be different ? In my opinion there are some good reasons:

1. ING is obliged to sell.

ING had to be rescued in 2008 by the Dutch Government under the condition that they dispose their full insurance activities. They cannot simply spin off the business because they need the money to pay back the Dutch Government and shore up the bank balance sheet.

This is form a recent Bloomberg article what they have done so far and what they committed to:

ING, the recipient of a 10 billion-euro bailout from the Netherlands in 2008, agreed with EU regulators to complete its disposal program by the end of 2016 and to sell more than half of NN by the end of next year. ING also still owns about 43 percent of Voya and a stake of about 10 percent in Sul America SA (SULA11) in Brazil.

The company is open to selling the Sul America stake, worth about 566 million reais ($253 million) based on the Rio de Janeiro-based insurer’s market value, in a block trade, Chief Executive Officer Ralph Hamers said in an interview in Sao Paulo yesterday.

2. The company is an “ugly duck” at first sight

The remaining insurance compqny is a strange combination of Netherlands, Eastern Europe and Japan with some Investment Management thrown in. In German, one would call the business mix a “Resterampe”, so the remains of what could not be sold directly. The majority of the business is Life insurance, which itself is clearly suffering from low interest rates.

The company shows more or less zero profits for 2013, however a couple of items could be considered true “One offs” in order to look better in the future, for instance the large charge against the closed Japanese VA business. Also Q1 2014 showed a loss, this time because of a charge in relation to pensions.

So now one can accuse ING of “dressing up the bride”, rather the opposite.

3. European Insurance is one of the sectors with the lowest valuations anyhow

The Stoxx 600 has currently a P/E of 24,8 and a P/B of 1,9. Compared to this, the Insurance sector trades at a trailing p/E of 12,4 and P/B of 1,21. This is even cheaper than banks and utilities. Within the insurance sector again, the Life Insurance sector is even cheaper. There are clearly many reasons for those low valuations, especially that interest rates are so low which makes it hard for life insurers to earn their guarantees and a spread on top if this.

4. The IPO valuation looks cheap compared to the sector.

The company comes to the market at around 50% of book value. Considering that they don’t have a lot of Goodwill, this looks cheap even compared to the generally low valuations for life insurance companies. Dutch competitors Aegon and Delta Llyod trade at P/Bs of 0,7 and 1,3, the average for European Life insurers is ~1.4 including UK, and around 1 excluding UK.

5. The company looks like a target

Looking at this IPO, there seems to be a big sign on the company saying “split me up”. This strange combination of businesses is clearly not value enhancing. Splitting the company up for instance into a Dutch entity and selling down the rest could be a pretty easy exercise for an activist Hedge fund. I could also imagine that some Asian financial companies would be interested in acquiring a solid Dutch “brand”-.

6. The company is relatively solid

If one looks at the “usual suspects”, like Goodwill, pensions etc. there is not much to be found. The company had 6 bn of defined benifit liabilities in 2013 but actually got completely rid of them in early 2014 against an extra charge. I consider this as very positive and a good sign that they really cleaned up a lot of stuff befor doing this IPO. Additionally, another insurance specialty, so-called “DACs”, which are capitalized distribution costs only play a very minor role at NN compeared to other life players like AXA.

They do have some leverage but overall I would rate the balance sheet quality as “above average” for the sector.

7. The US IPO went relatively similar

There is a blue print for this transaction: Voya, the former ING US IPO. The US business was also supposed to be pretty ugly, so ING placed the first tranche very very cheap at below 0,4 times book value. Since then however the valuation seems to slowly approach those of other US life insurers and the stock almost doubled since IPO:

Other thoughts:

Management incentives
What I didn’t find out in the annual report or in the IPO prospectus was how the NN Group management is aligned with shareholders going forward.

In situations like this, a lot depends on Management, especially if they want to actually increase sahreholder value or if they want to maximise salaries which is easier in a bigger company and which would make reasonable spin-offs and disposals unlikely. So this is something to be watched.

Management has committed to a quite aggressive dividend payout ratio of 40-50%, starting with a large payout already this year in autumn. I am not a dividend investor, but this greatly reduces the risk of stupid acquisitions.

Distribution agreements with ING Bank

Life Insurance is mainly distributed via banks these days (often along with a mortgage loan). NN has an exclusive agreement with ING Bank according to the IPO porspectus until 2022. Although this is a limited time frame, this is very valuable as banks now charge high upfront fees in order to access their distribution channel.

Summary:

In my opinion this “IPO” of NN Group is much more similar to the classic “spin-off” than a “real” IPO. ING has to sell, the underlying business looks ugly at first sight and there is a lot of overall negative headline news for the sector and the specific business fields. As a result, other than with a normal IPO, the valuation is very cheap.

As I feel comfortable with the headline risks at this price level, I will invest a “half position” (2,5%) of the portfolio into NN Group at current prices (21,70 EUR). The short form investment thesis is that one gets an above average quality insurance business for a below average price.

Again, this is clearly not a “no brainer” and will need (lots of) patience, but over 2-3 years, the price of the shares could be easily 50% higher (including dividend distributions) if they reach average valuation ratios and the one-offs turn out to be real one-offs.

Depfa: No sale, LT2 and the “Kebab Zerobond” (ISIN XS0221762932)

Warning: The securities discussed are illiquid and/or risky and the author might have bought them already before publishing the posts. Please do your own research and if you decide to invest nevertheless, use apropriate limits !!!

Background:

For readers of my blog, Depfa is no stranger. I did buy a 2015 floating tier 2 subordinated bond in 2011 and this has been a very good investment so far.

To summarize the story of Depfa for “new” readers quickly: Depfa was initially a “full service” German mortgage bank which then split up into a German mortgage bank (Aareal) and an Ireland based “public funding” bank (Depfa Plc). Shortly before the Lehman crisis, Depfa got bought by another German mortage bank, HypoRealestate (itself a spin-off from Hypovereinbsank). The rest is history: Depfa/Hyporeal Estate was the first bank to go belly up and needed to be rescued by the German Government.

After beeing rescued, the startegy was to concentrate on German Mortgage banking and to sell the old Depfa part (which has been “cleansed” from PIIGS exposure via a bad bank). The sale process seemed to have been already quite far advanced, with Leucadia as favourite, before very surprisingly the German Government pulled the sale in the last minute before closing.

Germany has intervened to prevent bailed-out bank Depfa from falling into US hands just hours before a deal was about to be struck.

The government’s financial market stabilisation fund, known as Soffin, said on Tuesday evening that Depfa should be wound down by the German authorities rather than sold for what would have been €320m to US investor Leucadia, according to people familiar with the deal.

What does that mean for Depfa bonds in general ?

Tier 1 bonds of Depfa got hit quite hard, although one must say that they enjoyed a great run up until then as this chart shows:

The reason here is I think the expectation that the FMS, which will have the task to run down Depfa, will not do anything actively with the subordinated bonds, whereas any private buyer would have tried to get the subs out as soon as possible under par in order to realize value more quickly.

Although it is not clear, how Depfa will be passed over to FMS (most likely a sale at book in my opinion, in order to facility a Hypo Real Estate sale in 2015), I think it is fair to asume that sooner or later FMS will be the owner of all assets and liabilites.

FMS itself is a Government owned “bad bank”. As bad banks need constant refinancing, FMS issues new bonds on a regular basis like this one. FMS is owned by SOFFIN, the German “bank rescue” vehicle, which itself carries an explicit Government guarantee. A good description of the FMS can be found here (in German, page 108 ff).

So once, Depfa has been transferred to FMS, in principle the liabilites should be considered FMS liabilities which again carry a AAA rating and trade more or less at levels similar to KfW.

Impact on subordinated bonds

The bloomberg article above mentioned that Depfa subordinated investors were afraid of the following:

“The main risks facing creditors now are the risk of burden-sharing as well as an indefinite coupon ban,” the analysts wrote in a note to clients on May 14. “It’s difficult to see clear upside from current levels and further volatility is likely.”

I share the opinion that it is very unlikely that coupons on Tier 1 bonds will be paid in the near future, although, at some point in time FMS might want to buy out the Tier 1 investors as well. But at current levels (50% of nominal), this is not a very attractive speculation.

However for the Tier 2 bond I own, the transfer of Depfa to the FMS is actually good news. I cannot think of any realistic scenario which would lead to a loss for the Tier 2 until maturity in 2015. If they would like to screw those bond holders, I am pretty sure they will have issues refinancing and this is the last thing they want. The LT2 bond priced consequently barely moved as we can see in the Chart:

So far, the LT2 has been a very good investment. Around 30% annualised return with, in my opinion, very little risk. If one has cash to park, I think the bond is even now a very interesting investment. You get around 5% annualized return until maturity December 2015 which is effectively Governemnt guaranteed.

I will therefore increase the position from a “half position” to a full 5% as I have plenty of liquidity in the portfolio to park.

The Depfa 2020 TRY “Kebab Zerobond” (ISIN XS0221762932)

When I started to look at Emerging markets earlier this year, especially when I looked at Koc Holding, I was surpried that Depfa had Turish Lira bonds outstanding.

When you search in Bondboard.de for TRY bonds which are traded in Germany it is even interesting to see that the 2020 Depfa TRY Zero bond is the highest yielding TRY bond available.

At a current yield of ~13% p.a., the bond trades around 4% p.a. wider than a 2 year longer EIB Zero bond and around 3% wider than similar Turkish Government (coupon) bonds.

Why does the bond look cheap ?

1. First of all, I think the problem is that the “official” rating of Depfa is BBB. Many investors will simply compare the bond with other financial BBB issues and apply respective spreads. As many of the Italian and Spanish banks are BBB as well, BBB financial spreads are high.

2. The bond is relatively small (425 mn TRY) and illiquid as the 100 K TRY denomination will deter many smaller investors (at ~47%, you need to pay around minimum 17k EUR to buy one bond). I think also, many investors prefer coupon paying bonds to zero bonds, for most investors “zero” bonds are an exotic security

3. Finally, I think not many people did like the combination of the Depfa structural risk and the TRY currency risk. Either you like Emerging markets and TRY or you want to play the Depfa capital structure, but usually not both.

However for me, the bond is the ideal combination: I do like the Depfa risk as I think that any Senior Depfa bond will be a AAA equivalent bond after the transfer to the FMS. Additionally I do also like the TRY risk. Clearly, there is downside potential and he TRY/EUR is still volatile as the chart shows:

As an investor you can gain (or loose) money with this bond based on 3 risk faktors:

A) TRY/EUR exchange rate. Based on the current interest rate differential, the market assumes that the TRY will devalue vy ~8% p.a. against the EUR.Perosnally, I see a good chance that the devaluation could be less than that. Under many metrics (PPP, BigMac index etc.) the TRY is fundamentally cheap compared to EUR and USD although there is clearly political and econimical riskimplied. The currency factor is clearly no “free lunch”.

B) Turkish interest rates. As a zerobond, the bond has a duration of ~6,5 years, i.e. if interest rates go up or down 1% the bond price will move +/-6,5%. Currently the yield curve in Turkey is flat or even inverse, with the short end slightly higher. even if long term rates stay constantand only short terms go down, one can expect some “extra juice” from the potential roll down of the bond.

C) Depfa Spread. Compared to an EIB Bond, the implicit credit spread is around 3-4% p.a. although in my eyes the credit risk is similar to an IB or german Government bond. I think there is also a good chance that this could normalize over 2-3 years. If there is some rating action following the transfer, this could even happen quicker.

All in all, I find the TRY Depfa bond very attractive and will by a half position for the portfolio. As the risk is predominantly TRY, I will allocate it to the Emerging Markets bucket.

My expectation is that I can make ~50%-60% in local currency within 3 years, if the yield curve normalizes and the Depfa Spread tightens including the normal “carry” of 13%. If half of that shows up in EUR, I will be already very happy ;-)

Hedge fund edition

For a smart (hedge) fund with good access to securities lending, a long (Depfa)-short (TRY EIB 0% 2022) trade could be interesting. Despite the slight duration mismatch, this could be an interesting way to speculate on the relative spread tightening between Depfa/FMS and the EIB bonds with an interesting implicit positive carry, although I am not sure how easy it is to borrow the EB bonds.

Summary:

In my opinion, the planned transfer of the old Depfa to the FMS is good news for LT2 and Senior bonds of Depfa, as the bonds become effectively German Government equivalent. I will therefore increase my existing lT2 position up to 5% and invest a half position (2,5%) into the Depfa 2020 TRY bond as Emerging Market investment.

P.S.:Why did I call this the “Depfa Kebab bond” ?

Doner Kebab is the most popular German fast food.

Based on Turkish ingredients, the current form (with salad etc.) is supposed to be a Turkish-German invention and in my opinion a good omen that a Turkish-German combination can be really delicious…..

MIFA Update (2) – And why I would prefer Russian shares to German Bonds

The story around the German bicylce producer MIFA seems to get more and more interesting. Yesterday I posted the update on the (not so surprising) losses detected now from previuos years of dubious inventory accounting.

A few minutes after I published the post, MIFA came out with another “breaking news” which starts the following way:

MIFA: Investment agreement with Indian bike manufacturer HERO concluded,
equity investment pursuant to capital increases from authorised capital

– Investment agreement with OPM Global B.V., a subsidiary of Hero Cycles
Ltd., about an equity capital investment in the amount of EUR 15
million concluded

– FERI EuroRating Services AG reduced issue rating of corporate bond

– Annual General Meeting expected for third quarter of 2014

From the headline one would conclude that the rich Indian “uncle” finally will save the company. Handelsblatt for instance translated this into a headline which one could translate into “MIFA secures investor”.

For the real “juice” of this announcement, you have to read down a little bit towards the end of the annoncement:

The investment commitment by OPM Global B.V. entails significant financial contributions of MIFA’s financing partners and is subject to various conditions precedent, especially to the condition of a haircut in the amount of EUR 15-20 million of the bondholders as well as an exemption from the German Financial Supervisory Authority (BaFin) from the obligation to make a public takeover offer under the The German Securities Acquisition and Takeover Act.

So to understand this again, the facts:

- The 2013 issued MIFA bond has a total volume of 25 mn EUR
– most likely, the covenants of the bonds are breached, so MIFA would have to pay back the bond on short notice
– the “Indian uncle” will only invest, if bond holders accept a haircut of 60-80%

Normally, if a company cannot pay back a bond, the company will go into default. the shareholders will be wiped out and the company then changes ownership from the shareholders to creditors i.e. bondholders for instance via a debt/equity swap.

at MIFA, they try to reverse the order. Let’s look at another part of the announcement: Hero is commiting to pay 15mn for the following shares:

The cash capital increases shall comprise a 10% capital increase with subscription rights being excluded and a subsequent rights issue with a total number of 4.9 million new shares to be issued. OPM Global B.V. has undertaken to subscribe all such shares which together with additional existing shares to be transferred from
certain existing shareholders would result in an overall participation of the investor of up to 47 %.

With currently 9,8 mn shares, only (0,98 +4.9) = 5.88 mn new shares will be issued. With a total new sharecount of 15,68 mn shares, the old shareholders would keep economically (9,8/15,68) =62,5% of the company while senior bondholders would keep only 20-40% of their bond prinicpal. In my opinion it should be the other way round.

It will be interesting to see if bondholders are accepting this pretty obvious blackmailing. The argument will most likely be that if they don’t accept, they will end up with nothing. Praktiker by the way tried a similar tactic, going to bondholders first . In Praktiker’s case, both shareholders and bondholders ended with nothing.

That the proposed transaction would be better for shareholders than for bond holders shows clearly in the price action this morning. While the bond lost further from around 33% to around 27% (or -20% in relative terms), the shares are up more than +20% at the time of writing.

Coming back to my headline: When i bought my first two small Russian share positions (Sberbank, Sistema) many people commented that they would never buy Russian shares because property rights are not respected in Russia. This might be even correct, but you get very cheap valuations and if they do respect property rights, tzhe potential upside is high.

In German bond markets however, property rights are even worse in my opinion once a company is in trouble. As we learned at IVG, subordinated bond holders can be wiped out without blinking an eye and looking at the last few cases, senior bond holders are now expected to rescue the company before shareholders commit a single cent. Under German insolvency proceedings, often the old management carries on (WGF) and wipes out bondholders as they wish. However, other than in Russia, there is no upside to this if you buy a newly issued German bond at par. So for me, if I would need to choose between a newly issued German Corporate bond and a Russian stock, the choice is clear….

The sad part of this story is that this event along with many other similar event will hurt corporate bond issuance in Germany in the long run, especially for smaller companies. With the banks continuing to shrink, this is not good news for those German Mittelstand companies who need debt funding.

I am somehow tempted to become a “bond activist” here….Let’s see how this continues….

Update: Portugal Telecom & Oi Merger & Oi capital increase

DISCLAIMER: The stock discussed is again very risky and not a typical “value stock”. Please do your own homework and never commit large amounts of your capital to such investments. The author might buy or sell the shares without giving advance notice. Do your wn homework !!

Last year I had a mini series (part 1, part 2, part 3) about the merger between Portugal Telecom and the Brazilian Oi. My initial idea was a long PTC / short OI deal as the mechanics of the merger seemed to imply a signifcant dilution for OI shareholders.

Interestingly, since I wrote the first post in October 2013, both shares lost siginficantly, however Oi with around -37% more than double than PTC with -15%.

Oi is now in the process of preparing the planned capital increase and it looks that they did push through the share offering though there have been some hickups along the way.

Just as a quick reminder:

Oi was supposed to do a big capital increase first before then the company gets merged with PTC.

Oi seems to have priced the new shares aggresively at the bottom of the expected range:

Grupo Oi SA, Brazil’s largest fixed-line telephone carrier, priced an offering of preferred shares at 2 reais each, at the bottom of the indicative range set by bankers, sources said on Monday.

So at current prices with PTC at ~3 EUR and OI common shares at 2,50 Reais (or ~0,81 EUR) PTC sharesholders will receive “new shares” of OI at the value of 2,2911 Euros plus 0,6330 “CorpCo” shares which should equal common shares. So at 3 EUR there seems to be a small discount but I think this is hardly exploitable as an arbitrage situation.

For me, the current situation is an interesting combination of a special situation (capital increase regardless of price) and Emerging Markets exposure.

However, much more interesting for me is that aspect:

It is pretty clear that Oi wanted to raise a defined amount without really caring about the share price. This looks similar to EMAK and Unicredit in Italy 2 years ago. This is one of the rare cases where we clearly have a seller who does not care about the price but just wants to raise a fixed amount of money.

The “special-special” aspect of this one are the following feature:

1. We do not have subscription rights despite the massive amount of new shares
2. We have the additional complexity of the subsequent PTC merger

In such a situation, it is extremely hard to come up with a solid valuation of the business. Both, OI and PTC look very cheap on a trailing EV/EBITDA basis but honestly, i did not try to figure out how the combined entity will look like. Oi minorities clealry got screwed by this transaction whereas PTC shareholders had been protected to a certain extent.

The good part of the this capital raising is that the entity will have some fresh cash which will allow them to operate for some time. Although there is clearly the risk of further dilutions if they want to bid for instance for additional businesses in Brazil.

Summary:

For me, the Oi capital increase looks very similar to situations like EMAK and Unicredit, where the companies issued new shares regardless of price. This increases the possibility that the price has been pushed significantly below fair value. Buying PTC now looks like an interesting way to get exposure to the merged entity at a depressed price. I will therefore invest a 1% position into PTC at current prices (3 EUR) for my “special situation” bucket.

« Older Entries