Search Results for: Bilfinger

Short cuts: Bilfinger, FBD Insurance, ABN Amro IPO

Bilfinger:

It’s “bloodbath time” at least when it comes to accounting. Bilfinger released 6M 2015 figures a few days ago. As often the case with new CEOs, the new one tried to write down as much as possible, in this case ~423 mn EUR or roughly -9 EUR/share:

Charges of 430 million euros ($476 million), including a 330 million write-down of the Power division and 30 million in restructuring costs for Industrial, pushed Bilfinger to a 423 million euro net loss from a profit of 47 million a year ago.

The CEO has sent a letter to all employees, similar to the “burning platform” letter at Nokia some time ago. In Nokia’s case back then it was already too late, let’s see how it works out for Bilfinger. I do think there is some good substance in the company but the transition will be very difficult. For me personally, Bilfinger is still on the “too hard” pile as I cannot judge the viability of the remaining business.

Overall my impression is that the “accounting blood bath” is less aggressive as for instance at Vossloh. I think this has to do with the motivation of the shareholders. At Vossloh, the biggest shareholder Thiele clearly wants to buy more shares at a price as cheaply as possible. At Bilfinger, Cevian clearly does not want to take over the company but rather exit sooner than later.

FBD

I looked at FBD, the Irish Insurance company in January and decided to not invest as a didn’t like a couple of things (non-alignment of incentives, aggressive reserving, stupid investment strategy).

In the meantime, quite a lot happened:

The CEO left, the CFO took over and the stock lost around -50% since then. On monday, FBD issued its 6M report and things look even worse than back then, as at Bilfinger, they created a nice “blood bath”. The Farmer’s journal interestingly has the best coverage for FBD. Here are the highlights from the 6M report:

– the had to increase past reserves by 88 mn EUR (!!!)
– they will sell their hotel JV at book value, the proceeds at Farmer’s side will be reinvested into FBD
– they will go for a subordinated bond issue (50-100 mn)

Overall, the lost over 1/3 of their equity in the first 6 months (from 275 mn to 180 mn). The current equity position includes a retroactively implemented restatement which boosted equity by 30 mn EUR. I honestly didn’t fully understand the reason for this restatement.

Within the 6M presentation, they give the following interesting statement with regard to Solvency II:

JV sales and pension scheme actions take FBD solvency capital levels to the regulatory minimum (~100%)

Debt raise will bolster the firm’s capital buffer, taking Solvency II capital to within the firms target range of 110-130% by December 2015

This clearly shows that FBD is extremely strained from a capital perspective. The biggest unknown in my opinion is how the proceeds of the sold JV will be reinvested into FBD. They don’t comment on that 45 mn EUR at current prices (5,8 EUR per share) would be more than 20% of the company. I don’t know about Irish company laws, but this normally needs to be done on a subscription rights basis. Or the Farmers provide the subordinated capital ?

Anyway for now I still don’t think that FBD is investible, one really needs to understand how the capital increase will be executed. From a positive side, my analysis in January was actually quite good and saved me a lot of trouble. Still, FBD will go on my “focused watch list” as it could develop into an interesting “turn around” case as the underlying business, if run well, is still attractive. I ususally don’t invest into turn arounds but in this case I would make an exception as I consider this inside my circle of competence.

Funnily enough the price adjusted almost directly to the new “book value”. It seems as this is kind of the “anker” for investors.

ABN Amro IPO

The upcoming ABN Amro IPO could be another chance to invest in a “forced IPO” kind of special situation. However, for the time being it doesn’t seem to be a real bargain according to this Reuters article:

The government has said the bank is currently worth about 15 billion euros, just under its just-reported book value, suggesting a paper loss of about a third on the initial share sale. To break even, the bank would need to fetch a valuation of 1.4 times forward book value – higher than rival ING, which trades at 1.2 times.

For a wholesale/corporate/investment bank like ABN I would not be prepared to pay book value, so for the time being I will watch this from the sidelines, unless they come up with a clear discount to book value.

Quick update Bilfinger

I looked at Bilfinger for the first time in August 2014, after the price dropped almost 50% from its peak some months before. I resisted again in November 2014.

Again as a reminder my comment from the first post:

– 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 ?

So now the new CEO came in on June 1st. And surprise surprise, the 6th profit warning within a year if I have counted correctly.
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Short cuts: Sky Deutschland, Rhoen Klinikum, Bilfinger, Vossloh

Sky Deutschland

A short quiz: Can you spot the day when the 6,75 EUR offer expired ?

My initial strategy obviously didn’t work out. Now however I am wondering why I didn’t short Sky Deutschland instead before the offer expired. It seems to be clear now that the price didn’t move above 6,75 EUR during the offer period, because most people attach a fundamental value of less than 6,75 EUR to the shares. That would have been second level thinking, but I missed it.

I read somewhere that you should only sell a stock from a portfolio if you are ready to short it. That would have been the best approach here.

Rhoen Klinikum

Looking at the chart, my decision to take a profit at 23,15 EUR looks stupid:

The mechanics of the current “listed transferable tender rights” are the following: The less people who want to actually sell there shares, the lower the price of the tender rights and the higher the share price. As for now, it seems that not so many people want to sell. I have to confess that I got nervous when the price of Rhoen dropped after I bought on the first day ex rights.

In the future, I think it makes sense to wait longer and see how these special situation plays out. I think I waisted some “intrinsic optionality” by taking the small profit much too early.

Bilfinger

In August I looked at Bilfinger for the first time. My arguments against an investment back then were the following:

– 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 ?

Yesterday, Bilfinger released Q3 numbers.

For me, it was therefore no big surprise that they had to write down in total of ~230 mn EUR. The market however seems to have been expecting other things as the extreme drop in the share price shows:

I think Bilfinger is now approaching the “very cheap” area and I will look at them a little closer in the next weeks.

Vossloh

Vossloh, another potential “turn around” story also released Q3 numbers a few days ago. Similar to Bilfinger, investors seemed to have been spooked by the numbers.

In my opinion, two issues might have irritated investors:

– new orders in Q3 were very weak (new orders in the first 6 months were very strong)
– management basically said that a “full” recovery can only be expected for 2017

Interestingly, the whole press release had a very negative tone, they make no attempt to strip out the one offs etc. etc. Maybe it is coincidence, but if I would want to talk the stock down in order to maybe buy the company cheaply, I would do it exactly that way…..

This is what I said in September:

Looking at the chart, this might not be unrealistic as the stock price is still in free fall and any “technical” support levels would be somewhere around 39 EUR per share if one would be into chart analysis. In any of those “falling knife” cases, patience is essential anyway.

Vossloh will therefore be “only” on my watch list with a limit of 42 EUR where I would start to buy if no adverse developments arise.

So we are now very close to my potential entry point. I will watch this as closely as Bilfinger. Both for Bilfinger and Vossloh, Iit will be interesting to see if there will be some year end tax loss selling.

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 8x-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……

All German Shares – Part 11 (Nr. 176-200)

New year, same series. This time the 25 stocks contain 5 watch list candidates. At 200 stocks I have managed now to cover already 25% of the universe.

176. Puma SE

Puma SE, the iconic German sportswear brand founded by the brother of Adi Dassler (Adidas) is a very interesting case. The now 10 bn EUR market company was one of the real hot growth stocks in the 90ies early 2000s, then nothing happened for a long time as we can see in the chart:

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Metro AG – Update & Playing the Devil’s Advocate

Metro, the spin-off stock I bought last year, doesn’t look very good at the moment. The stock priced tanked significantly over the last weeks and the stock is now a proud member of “V&O Flop 10“:

metro upd

When a stock price moves like this, the fist thought is always: I need to do something, either to sell, or more often, to buy more. This was for instance one of the mistakes I made with Silver Chef, where I Increased my position at least temporary.

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Hastings Plc (ISIN GB00BYRJH519) – the “next Admiral” or an accident waiting to happen ?

hastings-image-drop-in

The company

Hastings Plc, a UK-based direct insurance company was IPOed in 2015 at 1,70 GBP per share (IPO prospectus). To call Hastings a “Mini Admiral” is actually very close to the truth.

The company was founded as an underwriting Agency in 1996 by an American called David Gundlach who then sold the company 10 years later. Via a couple of more transformations (MBO etc.) Hastings then was finally brought to the stock exchange. Interestingly, according to some sources, Gundlach had worked at Admiral before so it is no surprise that Hastings looks pretty much like a 1:1 copy Admiral:

They only do direct business, reinsure significant amounts of their premiums and make their money mostly with anciliariy products and fees instead of investment returns like “classical” insurance companies. They only exception is that they don’t run a price comparison website (PCW) but they sell almost all policies via PCWs. Like Admiral, they have branched out into home insurance from

Hastings currently has a market cap of ~1.5 bn GBP and trades at an estimated 17,6 times 2016 earnings.

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Capital Allocation & Capital Management – What is good and what is bad

Everyone who has read Thorndikes book “The Outsiders” clearly knows that capital allocation& capital management is one of the most important factors in creating long term shareholder value. After I watched Thorndike give a briliant talk at Google on this topic, I decided to write down my own thoughts on the topic.

What is CAPITAL ALLOCATION & CAPITAL MANAGEMENT anyway ?

CAPITAL ALLOCATION is simply what you do with your profits/cash inflows once they are in your account. You can do a lot of things with it. Thorndike in the talk above uses 5 uses, I would add another 2 (in bold)

1. Reinvest: Maintain your existing assets/infrastructure/operations
2. Grow organically: Expand your business by buying more machines/outlets/opening stores etc.
3. Expand your business by M&A
4. Pay back liabilities (debt, payables, pension liabilities etc.)
5. pay dividends
6. buy back shares
7. just leave the cash on your account and wait for better opportunities

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FBD Insurance Update – Prem Watsa to the rescue….

FBD, the troubled Irish insurer issued an interesting press release last week. In one of my last posts on FBD, I mentioned that their plan for capital raising was still unclear.

This clearly shows that FBD is extremely strained from a capital perspective. The biggest unknown in my opinion is how the proceeds of the sold JV will be reinvested into FBD. They don’t comment on that 45 mn EUR at current prices (5,8 EUR per share) would be more than 20% of the company. I don’t know about Irish company laws, but this normally needs to be done on a subscription rights basis. Or the Farmers provide the subordinated capital ?

A few weeks ago, they were out in the market to raise a subordinated bond. Last week however, FBD came out with a quite surprising announcement:
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Arcadis NV (ISIN NL0006237562) – One deal too many ?

Arcadis is a stock which popped up in my “BOSS score model” which I still use regularly to find ideas. It is a Dutch based Design, Consulting & Engineering company with global reach and a diversified business. Historically, they have consistently produced ROE’s of 20% and grown nicely.

Some key figures:
Market cap 1,7 bn EUR
P/B 1,7
P/E 19,5 (2014), 11,6 (2015 est)
EV/EBITDA 10,4

The company trades at a ~20% discount to Peers like AF AB, Ricardo or SWECO.

What I did like about Arcadis at “first sight”:

+ consulting is capital light business
+ potential growth areas like infrastructure, water, urbanization
+ ROIC as relevant measure for compensation
+ organic growth as target for compensation
+ well-regarded in the industry

What I didn’t like so much:

– large project exposure
– China / EM Exposure (26%)
– Utility exposure (22%)
– big M&A transactions in 2014
– annual report focuses on adjusted numbers
– debt significantly increased, far above target

Hyder Consulting acquisition in 2014

In 2014, Arcadis did several larger acquisitions, the largest one being the UK listed Engineering company Hyder Coonsulting Plc. After the first bid, a Japanese bidder emerged and at the end they had to pay around 300 mn GBP for a company that earned around 6 mn GBP in 2014. This really looked expensive and is maybe one of the reasons why EPS in the first 6 months 2015 fell from 0,77 EUR to 0,70 EUR per share.

Looking into historic annual reports one can see that there was little organic growth for many years (page 15) and growth was driven by acquisitions:

arcadis

Arcadis looks pretty much like your typical “roll up”, gobbling up competitors one after the other. However with the Hyder deal, it looks like that they made maybe “one deal too many”. Debt is now clearly above their own targets and business is not doing well. They acquired Hyder for their Asian presence which maybe looked like a good idea last year.

Management incentives: The reality test

When I did read the annual report 2014, I really like the fact that management seems to be incentivized on ROIC and organic growth. However, this is the score card they presented with their half-year numbers:

arcad sct

At first sight the source card looks, great, everything green, only organic growth “orange”. A closer look actually shows that the only target they hit was actually external growth which in itself is a pretty stupid target. All the other targets were either misses or not available.

This slide alone to me indicates that management doesn’t take its stated goals that serious. Yes, on paper it looks great but such a “target achievment assessment” is clearly a joke.

Summary:

Although the “roll up” strategy seems to have worked for some time, in my opinion there is the risk that the 2014 acquisition spree was maybe too much. If they can make the acquistions work, the stock would be relatively cheap, but combined with the current debt load the stock is now much riskier than it was in the past. Bilfinger is a good example how a seemingly working “buy and build” strategy can implode over night.

It is also a good lesson in checking if a compensation system which looks good on paper is actually implmented and followed or if management just adjusts everything to look good despite not achieving the targets.

So I will watch this from the sidelines although I like the business and industry in general.

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