A logical follow-up to lastminute.com is clearly Expedia. Why ? Well, firstly because I use it personally (for flights) and secondly because it is one of the leading “OTAs”.
Expedia started in 1996 as a division of Microsoft and did an IPO in 1999. They have a pretty detailed company history web page.
The idea to look at lastminute.com came from my gocompare post, this is what I wrote back then:
Peter Wood hired the former CEO of lastminute.com, Mathew Crummack.
He seems to be a smart guy, however I haven’t seen anything from him about the future strategy yet. The new CFO of GoCompare ist the old deputy CFO from Esure. So the top managers from Esure seem to have preferred to stay.
I haven’t looked that deeply into LastMinute.com but it seems to do better since he left…(note to myself: check Lastminute.com).
As I have quite a lot of travel related companies on my ToDo list, I decided to start a kind of “mini travel” series, similar to my “Watch series”. As I like to travel myself a lot, I think this should be lots of fun to look into those companies.
Lastminute.com is a company based in Switzerland which initially went public in 2014 under the (strange) name “Bravofly Rumbo”. They started out as a website to offer cheap flights in Italy and Spain.-
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.
The rights issue
Those who have been reading the blog long enough might remember that Italy in general is a good hunting ground for “interesting” deeply discounted rights issues and especially Unicredit rights issues in the past were very interesting experiences.
So roughly 4 years later, Unicredit has launched another rights issue. Ex date for the subscription right has been Monday, February 6th.
The conditions were as follows:
- 13 new shares for 5 existing ones
- a subscription price of 8,09 EUR
- total volume 13 bn EUR (!!!)
- subscription rights trade under the ticker UCGAZ
The Company / Spin-off
Gocompare.com (GoCo) has been spun-off from parent Esure in the beginning of November, a week before the US elections and only a few days before Italgas SpA. As a “parting gift”, Esure took out a special dividend of about 75 mn GBP financed by some net cash and a 70 mn GBP loan before spinning the company off-
In my understanding, the major reason for the spin-off was that Esure, the listed UK online direct insurer was short in solvency capital and that this transaction improved the solvency substantially.
Every Esure investor got one GoCo share for an Esure share. Interestingly, Toscafund, the second largest shareholder only holds 14% in Goco compared to 16,7 for Esure, so they seem to have sold some shares.
John Hempton has a very interesting post on when to average down into a stock.
As a summary, one should not average down into a stock if
- a company has a lot of financial leverage
- a company has significant operating leverage
- the company is in danger of becoming obsolete
I think this is already a pretty good advice, as a counter example he gives Coca Cola where one can average down “without much risk”. As this is a very interesting topic, I wanted to contribute my 5 cents to this:
Behavioural biases at work
In my experience, averaging down is often motivated by a couple of behavioural biases.
The major bias which “helps” investors and especially professional ones to average down in the wrong cases is in my experience the “over confidence” bias.
Oaktree Capital is an US-based listed asset manager specializing in alternative assets and more specifically in “distressed” securities. Co-founder Howard Marks became quite famous and is one of the most intelligent people in the investment industry. I had reviewed his book 5 years ago and read everything he writes with great interest.
Oaktree is clearly one of the “Highest quality” names in Alternative Asset Management with a very good long-term track record. A reader mentioned Oaktree in the “ideal company post” and as I had them on my list anyway I decided to make this my first analysis for 2017.