Monthly Archives: April 2012

French stocks part 2: Installux SA (FR0000060451) – Boring is the new sexy

Installux is a small French Company which according to Bloomberg:

manufactures and distributes aluminum and steel components used in carpentry, locksmithing and building. The Company also refurbishes office buildings and factories.

Traditional valuation numbers show that the stock is relatively cheap and conservatively financed:

Market Cap 44 mn EUR
P/B 0.81
P/S 0.4
P/E 7.8 (Trailing 2011)
Div. Yield 5.5%

So far so gut, however, EV/EBITDA is at a sensational 2x EV/EBITDA

This is due to the fact that the company has around 46 EUR per share in net liquidity. Unfortunately, the 2011 report is not yet available, but some preliminary figures can already be accessed for instance here.

If we adjust the P/E for cash we would get a corresponding lower PE of around 5.2 for 2011.

A company with a valuation at 2 x EV/EBITDA and a P/E of 5 needs to have some kind of serious problem. However if you look at Installux, it is hard to find problems. Let’s look at historical numbers:

1999 10.2 5.5% 16.7% 15.9%
2000 13.4 6.2% 19.1% 18.7%
2001 14.1 6.3% 18.4% 15.5%
2002 10.4 4.6% 12.7% 13.0%
2003 12.4 4.7% 13.8% 14.9%
2004 17.5 5.6% 17.7% 15.5%
2005 18.5 6.6% 16.6% 15.0%
2006 19.8 6.4% 15.4% 14.6%
2007 18.8 5.6% 13.3% 13.2%
2008 17.9 5.4% 11.9% 11.8%
2009 15.1 4.7% 9.5% 10.2%
2010 21.8 6.4% 12.6% 19.6%
2011 17.9 4.9% #DIV/0!

What we can see here is a generally growing profit (with some minor hiccups), an unspectacular but very stable Net margin between 4.7% and 6.4% and Mid teen ROEs and ROICs.

The business is highly cash generative. Despite the growth achieved, over the last 13 years, on average 12-13 EUR free cashflow per share have been generated. Around half of that has been paid out as dividends, the other half has accumulated on the balance sheet (in 1999 Installux still had a tiny amount of net debt).

Also the balance sheet is cleaner as clean, no goodwill, no pension liabilities and no operating leases as far as I could see.

So let’s stop here and summarize:
We have a consistently growing and profitable business with very low volatility, attractive ROE and ROIC and a valuation of 2x EV/EBITDA and 5x P/E adjusted for cash (7.8 unadjusted) which produces a large amount of free cashflow despite growing nicely over the years.

Let’s have a quick look at the business:

Installux is processing aluminium, i.e. shaping and forming and coloring it to be used in shops, for windows etc. Interestingly, despite the fluctuation in aluminium prices, they seem to be able to pass on price changes relatively quickly.

Their clients are mostly “corporates” like building contractors etc., they run a small retail segment which however doesn’t seem to be very profitable at the moment (Roche Habitat).

A Net margin of 4-6% is Ok, but does not indicate a big moat. The relatively high returns on equity and invested capital seem to be the result of a relatively low fixed asset base required to run the business.

So the business seems to be nothing special, but produces double digit returns on invested capital which is quite good and is not really cyclical.

In the last 13 years, Installux roughly doubled its sales and profits, so one could not say that this is a shrinking or dying business either.


The current CEO Christian Canty seems to be in charge since 1987 and has bought the company according to the company history website in 1991. They made small acquisitions along the way but nothing spectacular. He is 65 years old and might not continue forever. However his son, Christophe age 38 seems to be already working in the company as a director.

He holds 50% plus some shares and has been buying smaller amounts of shares for instance in 2010 (1500 shares according to the annual report).

I haven’t found a disclosure how much he pays himself, but with a total of +12 mn salaries for all 450 employees, there is not a lot of space for a large CEO salary. Additionally they don’t issue any options or new shares to directors.

It is interesting to read Canty’s “press communication” which seems to be issued in irregular intervals. Another one can be found here.

It becomes clear how cautious he approaches exports and how hands-on he comments on the loss of his smallest division, Roch Habitats. One gets the impression that the “boss” is in control of things.

I also didn’t find any hint that any improper transactions etc. have been made between the CEO as majority owner and the company.

So why is the stock so cheap ?

Some possible reasons are:

– no investor relations at all, on their homepage you neither find a share price nor a link to the annual reports or quarterly news. This is the first time that I see a company homepage of a listed stock which basically denies the existence of its share….

– no trading volume. On a “good” day, 100 shares are being traded. prices jump around a lot between auctions.

– small free float: The CEO Christian Canty owns 50% of the shares and three 5% packages of French institutions are disclosed in the 2010 annual report. No international shareholders as far as I could see.

– even on Bloomberg, you cannot find links to recent news, reports etc. Also the historical numbers are screwed up. In their historical earnings database they show a profit per share of 175 EUR in 2004 per share instead of 17,50 EUR.

– Installux generates more than 95% of sales in France. if France goes into deep recession, it will be hard to compensate for Installux


With a stock like Installux, one can take a rather simple approach. As we have seen, the business is cash generative. So if we assume that they just continue to produce around 5.5 mn profit a year and discount this with 10%, we would get a valuation of 55 mn EUR. Plus the 14 mn cash on hand would make a conservative “no growth” valuation of around 230 EUR per share.

Of course we do not have something like a “catalyst” here, on the other hand at least based on historical volatility, a 10% discount rate might even be too high.

Another way to look at this would be: At the moment one can buy Installux at ~80% of book value. The earn 15% on Assets ex cash so one is buying at close to 20% effective ROE (ex cash) which is really really good !!!!

Share price

The stock price looks pretty boring:

Nevertheless, Installux has easily outperformed the CAC 40 even before dividends.
So let’s stop here and summarize:

+ Installux is a very conservatively financed company with a profitable growing business which doesn’t need a lot of assets to run

+ current valuation seems very cheap and neither takes into account the cash on hand nor the relatively high ROCEs and low volatility

+ a very conservative valuation approach would imply at least 50% upside in a no growth scenario

+ if Installux would continue growing at approx. historical growth rates, the stock should be much more expensive.

– however no catalyst in sight other than a slowly growing dividend which might help in the long run. So this is for the patient investor.

For the portfolio will start to accumulate shares at my usual rules (max 25% of daily volume).

Appendix: Others sources from the web for Installux:

– relatively good blog post 2 years ago on a French value blog which doesn’t seem to be active any more. He concludes that the stock is very solid and extremely cheap.

– from time to time there are posts in the boursorama forum. Th few people who discuss the stock seem to come to the same conclusion

– “Worlreginfo” seems to be the best source for Installux company filings

Weekly links

MUST READ: Aswath Damodaran has published a very interesting 77 page paper called “Value Investing: Investing for Grown Ups?”

If you don’t want to read the full paper, you should read the summary on Greenbacked (part 1, part 2, part 3, part 4)

The “Canadian Buffet” Prem Watsa has published the Fairfax 2011 annual report

Good write up of Chemring at Expecting Value

Interesting Interview with Restaurant company boss (Steak Shack) Danny Meyer

Great write up from Nate at Oddball about Precia SA, a potential hidden champion from France.

EDIT: Damodaran link editetd

AIRE KGaA – annual report published

AIRE KGaA published their annual report 2011 yesterday.

The NAV slightly increased from Q3 2011 to EUR 21.30 per share.

The most interesting news however is to be found on page 5: From the initial 65.6 mn EUR potential investment commitments, only 2.4 mn EUR seem to be now relevant, as most of the other commitments did expire or will expire soon.

At year end 2011, AIRE had almost 22 mn EUR in cash on hand, representing around 5,20 EUR per share. The buyback announced this week, will use only up to 5 mn EUR, so we can expect some further buy backs soon.

So for the time being, despite the insider issues discussed, I think the value of the shares should be strongly protected to the downside.

For the portfolio, I will continue to sell down until a 5% weight is achieved (from ~7%). However, due to the low volume this might take a while.

Quick analysis: Klöckner & Co SE (ISIN DE000KC01000)

First of all thanks to all the readers who send me interesting investment cases, I really appreciate this, especially if you already include some “homework”.

One reader recommende to me to look at Kloeckner and Co SE, the German steel trading company as this might be a cheap investment.

Traditional Value metrics indeed look Ok but not overly cheap:

P/B 0.55
P/S 0.1
P/E is 120

If we look at historical numbers, we can clearly see that Klöckner is a very cyclical company:

EPS EBITDA p.Share Sales p. share FCF ROE
2006 3.50 6.69 93.80 -0.10 44.98
2007 2.26 5.78 106.38 -0.51 18.43
2008 6.75 10.11 114.44 1.71 43.53
2009 -3.29 -1.33 67.30 8.92 -17.31
2010 1.07 3.20 71.22 -0.48 6.51
2011 0.14 2.34 83.13 -1.14 0.75

As Kloeckner was Ipo’ed in 2006, we only have data for one cycle. I would in general prefer for cyclical stocks being able to look at 1999-2011 data including the 2001-2003 period to have two cycles to analyze.

If we look at a “6 year historical” P/E, this would be around 7-8 x average earnings which would be OK, but not overly cheap. Compared with Buzzi for instance, which trades at 3x average earnings over the last 10 years, Klöckner looks relatively expensive.

A few other things which I Didn’t really like at a first galnce :

– share count increased dramatically (doubled) because of 2 capital increases in 2008 and 2011

– in the 6 years since IPO, they managed only 3 times to pay a small dividend

– their business is very capital intensive for a trading operation. The cannot finance their inventory through payables from supppliers but they finance it through capitzal market debt and bank loans, which is very risky in my opinion

– recent acquisition in the US (never a good sign for a German company)


VERY NEGATIVE: The CEO even managed to increase his salary in 2011 despite the very disappointing 2011 results and the dilutive capital increase. This does not look like an “alignment” of interest between shareholders and CEO.

Positive aspect:

+ does not have a controlling shareholder

A quick view at the chart doesn’t show a very nice picture either:

Summary: As a contraririan “reversion to the mean” play, Klöckner is relatively expensice, compared to Buzzi for example. The business model itself seems to be very risky, especially the financing of invetory thorugh capital market debt. So for the protfolio, Kloeckner is not an interesting candidate, as there are in my opnion better value alternatives in the “contrarian” stock segment.

Real estate investment funds – SEB Immoinvest and DJE real estate

Interesting developement with regard to the last two remaining closed real estate funds, CS Euroreal and SEB Immoinvest:

SEB wants to save itself by opening just for one single day on May 7th.

The price of the fund already jumped this morning:

EDIT: The SEB Immoinvest is not in the DJE Real estate fund

It will be interesting to see how this works out on May 7th. To a certain extend I find it relatively unfair, as this move punishes traditional fund savers, which might not know about this or have not enough time to react.

I am not sure, if the SEB Immoinvest itself would be a good special situation right now. According to the details of the “offer” , they will collect all orders from now on.

If the orders are less or equal existing liquidity (30% of the fund), they will pay out all orders, otherwise they will not pay out anything. So no “odd lot” tendering for the small guys, it is just “all or nothing”.

For me it is extremely difficult to assess how many people will redeem, my assumption is that all institutional ones more or less have to submit orders.

At current prices of 40 EUR, the upside would be some 30% whereas the donside would be the old price of around 34-35 EUR. So one has to assume at least a 50% chance of reopening to make this a positive exected value investment.

DJE Real Estate:

As Perlenfischer pointed out in the comments, there is a con call on MAy 7th with regard to further proceedings from DJE. This should be interesting.

Macro post: Does having an own currency solve all problems ? (HUF, GBP, ARS)

If one observes the current debate at the moment, there are is a lot of criticism for the Euro as a concept in general.

Many so called experts basically say the following:

If [Ireland/Spain/Greece/Italy/Portugal] would have their own currency, all problems could be easily solved just by a little devaluation and everyone would be happy again.

As the “poster child” for this example, many pundits than refer to the Icelandic example and how well Iceland is doing these days.

Star economist Steven Keen for example is promoting a similar approach in this Interview in Ireland, where even his Irish host seems to have a problem in understanding how this really should work.

I am not a trained economist, only a “humble” value investor, but out of my actual experience, I try to reconcile the “Euro is evil” thesis with reality. I find it interesting that there are at least 3 countries with their own currency, where thiscurrency does not solve any problems. Let’s look at them seperately:


Argentinia is the well documented poster child of what can go wrong with its own currency. Despite a commodity led export boom, devaluation of 80% and more they still didn’t really manage to turn the ship around. Many observers attribute this to widespread mismanagament and corruption, but at least in the case of Greece one could expect the exact same outcome. However without any chance from additional exports and natural resources.

As far as I know, banks were not the problem in Argentina, but the lack of trust in leadership and rampaging inflation following the devaluation despite price controls etc.


Also an interesting case. Hungary was on “convergence path” with the Euro. The following devaluation brought many Hungarians on the brink of bankruptcy, because everyone had financed everything in EUR or CHF anyway, so devaluation actually backfired big time.

Since then a nationalstic Government tries to achieve some sort of “Silent Nationalization” through special taxes on foreign owned companies (see Magyar Telekom, which i owned but sold due to this risk).

As most of the foreign currency loans were granted by bank subsidiaries of Italian, German and Austrian banks, the Hungarian Government did not have to stabilize banks in a significant way.

United Kingdom

The Uk did the full program: Quantitative easing (several times), deficit spending (a lot), devaluation and achieved some significant inflation. Nevertheless, the UK is already in a double dip recession .

So also in the UK, the own currency including the full instrument case doesn’t seem to be the silver bullet, at least in a time frame of 3-4 years time.

So what can a value investor learn from this ?

In my opinion there are a few take aways:

– exiting the Euro and having one’s own currency is not the silver bullet for countries like Portugal, Spain, Ireland, Italy and even Greece. It only really helps if you can export much more than you import, otherwise you just end up with high inflation

– politicians are not completely stupid. They will be aware of this.

– current discussions about a Euro break up, especially from the notorious US based perma bears should be weighed against the actual experiences in those 3 countries

– investments in the PIIGS countries are risky, but a currency break up might not be realistic, even in the case of Greece

– within any analysis, one should focus on structural changes, where the impact is only seen at a later stage

– one should never forget: Real (positive) change only happens in the time of crisis.

AIRE KgAA – 10% Buy back tender offer at EUR 14

As one of the readers commented yesterday, one of my special situation investment, real estate investment company AIRE KgAA issued a 10% buy back tender offer yesterday after close.

This is of course good news in general, as this was one of the catalyst events I was looking for.

Based on my initial investment thesis from Decemeber 2010, we are currently at the “mid case” scenario.

However I have some isues with this tender offer:

1) Why was it launches just before the publication of the annual report ? Normally, the annual report came out always on the last day of April. Do they want to fix the price now because there is unexpected good news (e.g. a written off project came back to life) ?

2) In my opinion, there was some serious INSIDER TRADING going on. This is the only explanation for the strange rise of the stock against the general market) in the last few days:

The insider aspect really worries me, as this could also go into the other direction. So my current reaction is to start to exit the position from today, even if this is what AIRE KgAA or its major shareholders are trying to achieve.

The tender offer itself is an “Odd lot” type of offer, with the “odd lot” being 100 shares which will be accepted 100%, above 100% there will be only a partial repurchase based on the total amount tendered.

A first look at French stocks – part 1 (including my Top 10 French small caps)

So far, I have been reviewing 4 French stocks in more detail:

Vivendi SA
Esso S.A.F. (part 1, part 2)
April SA
Tonnelerie Francois Freres

From those four stocks, only Tonnelerie made it into the portfolio as a “Hidden Champion”.

France, as the second largest EUR economy has a lot of listed companies.

Bloomberg shows 847 listed companies based in France, a little less than Germany with 1110 companies, but more than Italy (304), Spain (201) and Portugal (67) combined !!!

Total market Cap for French companies is 1.09 bn (European “billion” or Amercian Trillion), slightly higher than the 1.02 bn/tn currently shown for Germany. Not surprisingly, France has more “big” companies with market caps above 5 bn EUR (45) vs Germany (35).

If we look at what I would call the “Small cap sweet spot”, 25-200 mn EUR market cap, we get 242 French companies against 498 companies in Germany.

General observations about French stocks:

I am definitely not an expert in French stocks and the French investment scene, but I would summarize my experiences up to now as follows:

– French companies, especially small caps are usually less leveraged and run more conservatively than their Italien or Spanish peers

– there is hardly any blogging or internet scene for French stocks. I know only of and the quality of posts there is usually quite low

liquidity for French small caps is sometimes extremely limited. I guess this has to do with a preferential treatment of 5%+ psoitions under French tax rules. So many small caps have a large majority owner and several long term 5% stakes. Some stocks trade only twice a day at very small amounts.

“shareholder value” seems to be still a kind of “dirty word”. One usually doesn’t see a lot of share buy backs etc. French companies either reinvest or keep a lot of cash on the balance sheet. M&A activity (take overs ect.) is also relatively limited. Don’t expect super efficient use of capital either.

– many of the smaller companies only report in French, which (thanks to Google translate ) is not a big problem anymore but might turn off some potential Anglo Saxon investors. Sometimes it is hard to find news, even on company web pages.

– disclosure in French reports is often relatively limited

So I would say that especially the smaller French stocks look really “neglected”, both by international and local investors.

For instance if I search for stocks with P/B less than 1 and a “single digit” P/E, I find 131 French companies against only 101 German companies. If I include a required minimum Dividend yield of 1.75%, I only get 32 German companies, but 84 French companies. So based on very simple metrics, there seems to be a bigger selection of “cheap” French companies than German companies.

Also when we look at the indices, France looks comparatively cheaper than Germany. Current P/E for the CAC 40 is 10.1 with a dividend yield of 5.3% against a P/E of 13.1 and dividend yield of 3.7% for the German DAX.

Interestingly, French small cap indeces are relatively expensive. The CAC Mid 600 Index for example tardes at an 12x forward P/E which is almost the same as the German MDAX.

However, in order not to make it too exciting, I will reveal my current “TOP 10 watchlist” of potentially interestign French stocks which there are:

1. Poujoulat (FR0000066441)
Chimney manufacturer, consistent profit growth, single digit P/E

2. Installux (FR0000066441)
Specialist for aluminium products, very profitable. Extremely cheap on an EV basis because of large cash position

3. Gevelot (FR0000033888)
Ridiculously cheap auto parts company. Very good post at Oddball

4. Samse SA (FR0000060071)
Cheap regional DIY chain

5. Piscines Desjoyaux (FR0000061608)
Swimming pool manufacturer, cheap, Royce has built up a 7.6% position in 2011

6. Trigano (FR0005691656)
Recreational vehicles, caravans

7. Groupe Guillin (FR0000051831)
Plastic packaging

8. Thermador (FR0000061111)
Plumbing supply wholesale

9. Precia SA (FR0000060832)
Industrial scales

10. GEA SA (FR0000053035)
Highwy toll collection equipement

All those companies are plain vanilla “old economy stocks” who score incredibly well on my “boring but sexy” screen which combines ROE, volatility of ROE, growth, and solidity of balance sheets relative to price over 10 years..

Other interesting small caps which I haven’t researched deeply but might be interesting are:

Tessi (good post at valueinvesting france)
Chargeurs (another Seth Klarmann / Baupost position)
Mr. Bricolage
Maisons France

I will try to write a post for each of the “Top 10” companies in the coming weeks. However I would really appreciate if readers who have other interesting French stocks on their radar to shoot me a comment etc. or if you have researched companies on the list.

It would also be great to know if there are other interesting blogs and resources for French small caps like valueinvestingfrance.

For the portfolio I am actually thinking of taking a “basket” approach as it would take ages to build up a position in any of those stocks. Sow this would mean for instance 5x 1% positions as a “French basket”.

DISCLAIMER: The author privately owns already some of the discussed shares

Portfolio updates – Praktiker, Nestle, SIAS, Piquadro & TUMI

Just to summarize some recent portfolio transactions:


In the last few days, Praktiker came back below my limit at 41%. So in toatl I bough now 641.000 nominal bonds at a “dirty price” including accrued interest of 41.62%. Clean price would be around 40.50%.


As announced yesterday, I sold the Nestle shares at 54.47 CHF. Including 2 dividends, Nestle produced a positive performance of 24.17% for the portfolio.

I kept the CHF hedge, Vetropack is now 100% hedged.


Also yesterday, I “pre” invested the SIAS dividend back into SIAS shares. Ex date was April 23rd, however payment date is April 26th.


Piquadro fell back below my buying limit of 1,50 EUR, so I will increase the position of currently 1%. Howver, tarding volume is relatively small. As always, I will sell short 50% of the purchase value with FTSE MIB ETFs.

The TUMI IPO by the way has been a great succes. The stock increased from 18 USD to 26 USD in the frist few trading days. This gives TUMI a valuation of 1.8 bn USD, which translates into P/S of 6 and EV/EBITDA of 30. Cpompared to this, Piquadro is valued at EV/EBITDA of 7 and P/S of 1.

I had hoped that the IPO of TUMI would represent some kind of “catalyst” event for Piquadro, but I think at the moment Piuqadro is overwhelmed by the Euro Crisis 2.0.

Finally, the net cash position of the portfolio after those transactions is currently 11.8%.

Nestle M&A, Walmart Mexican bribery, SIAS

Both remaining large caps of the portfolio, Walmart and Nestle had some big news today.


Seems to be involved in a bribery scandal in Mexico which they tried to cover up on company level.

There is very good coverage of the legal aspects at the FCPA Professor blog (part 1, part 2).

A commentator speculates that this would end in a fine of 100 mn USD, I have no idea if this is realistic or not. In any case, I will sell Wal-Mart as soon as I find something else.


Nestle paid 11 bn USD for Pfizers baby food division, a 19.8 (!!!!) EV/EBITDA multiple after a bidding war with Danone. No doubt, Nestle is a great company, but for my taste at a current 12xEV/EBITDA, a lot of positive developement is already priced in.

So with the VWAP of today (after cashing in the dividend), I will sell the Nestle position at today’s VWAP.

Originally, this was a pair trade with Green Mountain as short psotion. For the time being I will keep the Green Mountain short open.

SIAS went ex dividend today, howver loosing some more. In order to take adavantage of the low price, I will reinvest the Dividend proceeds at today’s VWAP.

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