Updates: MIFA & Nuclear decommissioning liabilities
Just a few quick comments on events that caught my eye while I was on vacation:
As predicted in my post some weeks ago, the troubles of MIFA were clearly not a temporary 2013 “accounting system” issue but a result of dubious inventory accounting over multiple years (or simply stated – fraud):
This is the quote from the news release last week:
In the course of investigations by the Management Board and Supervisory Board of MIFA, it has been detected that also the previous years’ financial statements contain material misstatements. These misstatements relate to the inventories of raw materials, consumables and supplies as well as finished goods. Recent findings show a cumulative inventory difference in the amount of approximately EUR 19 million, which originate from the financial statement 2012 and previous years.
This is what I wrote 7 weeks ago, just based on public information:
I do not claim to really understand what MIFA was doing and I have no idea if they will survive or not. However, just by looking at their historical material costs and inventory level, it seems unlikely that the newly introduced accounting system could be responsible for a 15 mn loss. For me it is much more likely that the inventory build up at least since mid 2012 lead to overstated results over a longer period of time. The 15 mn loss announced seems to contain a significant write down on inventory as well. I could imagine that they might have to restate older financial statements as well.
Both, stock and bond look like “terminal decline”:
It looks like that the company lost money for a long time and made profits only by faking inventory levels.
I have often said that Grman listed Chinese companies are fraud, but clearly we have a lot of “home grown fraud” here as well. It will be interesting to see if someone is going to jail for this. I guess not
German utilities / decommissioning liabilites
Some months ago, I looked briefly at Eon’s nuclear decommissioning liabilites, which, in my opinion were clearly under reserved as the discount rate of 5% is far above anything being used elsewhere. That’s what I wrote back then:
EON has 16 bn EUR of reserves on its balance sheet for the decommissioning of nuclear power plants. Those 16 bn are clearly already reserved in the balance sheet, but as they will be due in cash rather sooner than later, they should be clearly treated as debt and added to Enterprise value.
However, there is a second issue with them: For some reasons, they are allowed to discount those amounts with 5% p.a. This is around 2% higher than for pension liabilities which in my opinion is already quite “optimistic”. They do not offer any hint about the duration of those liabilities, but if we assume something like 10-15, just adjusting the discount rate to pension levels would increase those reserves by 3-5 bn and reduce book value by the same amount.
I was therefore quite surprised that there seem to be negotiations that the German Government will take over those liabilities. Here is a “Spiegel” article in German which points ut that there seem to be supporters for this on the political side.
The argument made is that if the Government takes over the liabilities, they would not bear the credit risk of the utilities. However that argumentation has some serious flwas:
– the German utilities have indeed made reserves on their liability side, but they are clearly NOT backed by cash on the asset side. In the table I linked to one can clearly see that the liabilites are only partly financed by liquid assets. If we take out working capital requirements, my assumption would be that less than 50% is backed by liquidi assets.
– as I said before, the current liabilites are clearly underreserved. Without knowing anything about the technical aspects, alone the 5% discount rate used indicates 20-40% under reserveing depending on the duration of the liabilites and based on EON’s cost of debt. Clearly if the German Government would take over the liabilities, we would need to discount at German Government rates meaning the fair value or better cost to the taxpayer might be more than 50% more than reserves.
If the utilities would be succesfull with this, both, EON and RWE would be a strong buy and the German taxpayer a strong sell. Maybe I should hedge my position as a German tax payer with a long position in RWE and EON ?