DISCLAIMER: The author might own the stock already before the release of this post. The stock discussed is very illiquid. Please do your own research. This is not a recommendation to buy or sell or anything.
As many readers might have figured out, I am currently looking a lot at French stocks. I already had mentioned in my August review that I am building up a stake in a company which I didn’t disclose back then. Well: here is the company: Trilogiq SA.
If one looks at Bloomberg, the description is quite short and meaningless:
Trilogiq SA manufactures a wide range of flow racks.
However, looking at the Corporate Website is much more revealing:
Trilogiq is manufacturing a modular system of flexible components which supports the material handling at an assembly line. The underlying philosophy is based on the Japanese “Kaizen”. More on that later.
The company went public in late 2006 at a price of EUR 28.59 per share, a level the share hasn’t seen since as the stock chart clearly shows:
Traditional value metrics look OK, but not super cheap (at 18,15 EUR) :
Market Cap: 68 mn EUR
Div. yield 0%
Debt: Net cash of ~5 EUR per share
So why do I think the company is interesting ? Well, if we look into the last annual report, they seem to do something right:
Net Margin 8.6%
ROE of 12.2% BUT: ROIC (ex cash) is 20%
ROE was higher in previous years, but adjusted for Cash, ROICs are relatively constant at 20%.
So this now gets interesting: We get a company with a (cash adjusted) PE of 8 and an ROIC over the last 7 years of around 20% and the company is growing. This is very good and hard to find these days. On top of that, the company is growing quite nicely and : only around 15% of the business is in France, 85% is “Export”.
So in current times, this definitely is a good reason to investigate the company further.
In such a case as Trilogiq, where I do not know the company really well, I usually try to figure out what they are doing in more detail in the next step. Here, fortunately, we can still find the (French) IPO prospectus on Trilogiq’s web site
General Remark: IPO prospectuses are always a very good source for information about the business model, competitors etc. So if one can get hold of it and it is not too old and outdated, this is usually the single best source for such information. Much better than annual reports, because the risks are usually disclosed quite extensively.
The founder of the company worked as an engineer at Renault and had the task to study Japanese car manufacturing. He then started out on his own, producing equipment to improve manufacturing efficiency for Renault and Peugeot.
The basic “philosophy” is to have a lean flexible production process which avoids unnecessary material, handling steps, heavy machinery, large quantities etc. Among others, it is advised to transport small amounts only within the assembly lines, avoid unnecessary distances etc etc.
Now comes the interesting part: Trilogiq itself does not only provide the tools, but is offering the full consulting service as well. So a company calls Trilogiq and they start with simulating the production process on a computer (CAD) and then optimize it using their various tools. They will then go on site and then implement the stuff including full project management etc.
So in essence, Trilogiq rather seems to be a specialised consulting company with a physical product than your typical car parts supplier. This in my opinion also could explain the rather high margins which are quite unusual in the automobile industry.
A few videos which explain the principles:
Some product presentations
In order explore this thesis a little bit more, let’s look at two ratios:
- What amount of raw material etc in relation to sales does Trilogiq show against other companies ?
- What amount of sales do they generate per employee ?
Lets look at some companies, I have chosen 2 car parts companies + 3 of my portfolio companies as comparison:
||Sales per Employee (K EUR)
The result is quite interesting. PWO and Sogefi are 2 “typical” car parts manufacturers. Material cost is more than 50% of sales, sales per employee are relatively small, so implicitly this is rather pretty “low tech” work.
If we look at my Portfolio companies, only Thermador has a similar per employee sales number but this is normal as it is primarily a trading and logistics company. Poujoulat for instance needs more material than Trilogiq as well as Installux and even Installux only manages 2/3 of Trilogiq’s sales per employee.
Just for fun, i also listed software company IGE + Xao and Accenture. Interestingly those companies generate similar sales per employee volume.
While this is clearly no scientific proof, I think it is however fair to say that Trilogiq is not your typical “manufacturer” but rather something different. It is no trading company either so I think my thesis that it is a kind of consulting company with a physical product might not be unrealistic.
Another interesting aspect shown on page 33 of the IPO prospectus is the aspect that they do create significant recurring revenues out of their products. According to this, they have a 4 year cycle. If they sell an amount of 100 in the first year, they will expect 20 maintenance revenue in year 2 and 3 and then (if renewed) another 40 in year 4.
They only consider 2 companies as direct competitors: Fastube in the US and Yakazi from Japan, both privately owned. As Trilogiq is currently expanding quickly in the US it seems like Fastube is maybe not the strongest competitor. They don’t seem to be active in Asia, maybe too much respect versus the Japanese “master” like STarbucks and Italy ? Of course, the “traditional way” is a competitor too.
Why is the stock cheap ?
- One reason is clearly the non-existent financial communication. Minimalistic reports in French only, only a few small research houses cover the stock (5 according to Bloomberg, only 2 in 2013). Interestingly, in 2007 and 2008 they still made some additional press releases about large new orders, but from 2009 on they only released their reports and nothing else
- they only paid a dividend once (50 cent in 2009). Since then they are accumulating cash.
- data for the company for instance in Bloomberg is not very accurate, 2011 and 2012 numbers are not updated. TheyWon’t show up in many screeners
- it is a French company and sentiment is still bad for France
- they are viewed as an “average” car parts producer
Now it gets interesting: Shareholders
No reliable data in Bloomberg. According to them, French value fund Amiral Gestion owns 2.13%.
According to this research report however, the founder still owns 77%, but Amiral Gestion owns 13%. Leaving a tiny free float of 10%. Amiral in my opinion is one of the better European Value companies and maybe the best in France.
AMIRAL, actually has increased its stake to 13,55%. On the general assembly a few days ago they went kind of activist and demanded a special dividend of 3.75 EUR per share.
As the owner most likely seems to have been present at the AGM, I guess this was voted down, but nevertheless it clearly shows the strategy Amiral is running here. They are in for the long run and will press for some form of payout, be it dividend or share buy back.
In my opinion this is also an interesting kind of “insurance” against any unfriendly behaviour from the CEO and majority owner, as Amiral is not a small fund. With their 13% stake (which is more 56% of the free float) Amiral is automatically committed for the long-term as it will be extremely hard to get out of this stake via the rather illiquid market.
I found this interview with the founder and CEO (in French), where he explains the company and mentions that taking the company private would be worth a consideration….
There is a quite active discussion (in French) on Boursorama about Trilogiq and someone is even claiming that the special dividend was approved, however I am not sure that this is the case.
France / Portfolio concentration
As some readers might recall, I sold my Bouygues stocks when I bought Thermador because I thought that my exposure to France is big enough. With Trilogiq, I don’t have this problem. trilogiq has only 15% of its sales in France and is currently expanding rapidly outside France, especially in the US. So I don’t see an issue here.
Interestingly, french sales haven’t improved much over the past years, the growth came almost exclusively from outside France.
In my opinion, Trilogiq is a very interesting company and might even be a true “Hidden champion”. For me it looks more like a consulting company with a physical product than a manufacturer which helps to explain the good margins and 20% ROICs.
There are clear reasons why the company is cheap compared to the quality of the business, especially the negligence of shareholders so far. However, with Amiral having built up a 13% stake, this could improve.
Nevertheless it shares many characteristics I like in a stock:
- founder/owner majority owned
- relatively illiquid and negelected from investors/analysts
- business model not too easy to understand
- negative headline news for home country
In my opinion, the company is worth much more than its current price. Conservatively I think if this would be a German or UK company, People would pay 15x earning plus the cash which would be 25 EUR +5 EUR or 30 EUR per share.
Trilogiq is therefore a clear “buy”. For the portfolio I assume that I was able to build up a position of 20000 shares at 18,27 EUR per share which is roughly 50% of the trading volume since July 1st and represents a 2.3% allocation of the portfolio.