Category Archives: Deeply discounted rights issues

A quick look at the Unicredit (deeply discounted) rights issue

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

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Groundhog day: Another BMPS (ISIN IT0005092165) deeply discounted rights issue “Italian style”

Health warning: Do not try to trade in such situations unless you know exactly what you are doing. This is not investment advise, do your own research.

Almost exactly 1 year ago, I already looked at last year’s deeply discounted rights issue of struggling Italian Bank BMPS. Well, the same time in the year again and of course, BMPS is again in the market…. somehow this reminds me of this great movie:
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Deeply discounted rights issues – Serco Plc (ISIN GB0007973794)

Serco Plc, the British outsourcing company, used ro be a stock market favourite for a long time. Especially in the 2000s, Serco was able to increase its profit ~10 fold from 0,04 pence per share in 1999 to around 40 pence in 2012.

Then however, a little bit similar to Royal Imtech, problems and some scandals piled up and culminated in an accounting bloodbath for 2014. Serco showed a total loss of 2,09 pounds (!!) per share, eliminating pretty much all profits made from 1999.

After raising a smaller amount of capital last year, Serco announced a large 1:1 capital increase at a sharp discount in early March, the rights have been split of on March 31st. Serco wants to raise some 500 mn GBP with the majority being used to lower the outstanding debt (currently around 600-700 mn).

Looking at the stock chart, Serco shareholders have suffered a big loss, especially compared to competitor G4S which, despite relatively similar problems, has recovered well:

Normally, I would not look at a “turn around” case like Serco at all, but in this case it might be different. The difference is the new CEO, Ex Aggreko CEO Rupert Soames:

Soames surprised everyone in early 2014 when he left Aggreko after leading the company for 11 years and with great success. For anyone who has read an Aggreko annual report, one knows that Soames was not only a succesful CEO but also a very good communicator. I can highly recommend to read those reports as they are very interesting.

Before asking for shareholder money, he actually said that he will not take his guaranteed bonus for 2014 which I found was a very good gesture.

After enjoying the Aggreko reports I decided to look into the 2014 annual report and especially the “CEO Letter” from Soames to see what he has to say.

I was positively surprised by the openness how Serco’s problems were adressed, both from the Chairman and Soames himself. It is the classic tale of too much growth through acquisitions combined with a lack of integration and bad execution. Other than at Royal Imtech, it doesn’t involve outright accounting fraud.

One rarely gets to read such a good description of the problems of a company and the historic context (page 9 of a turnaround case. This is then followed by a clear change in strategy, namely to focus on Government services and get out of “private” contracts altogether. Overall the strategy section looked very well thought out and not unrealistic to me.

Further in the report, I found this interesting statement:

Historically, the key metrics used in forecasts were non-GAAP measures of Adjusted Revenue (adjusted to include Serco’s share of joint venture revenue) and Adjusted Operating Profit (adjusted to exclude Serco’s share of joint venture interest and tax as well as removing transaction-related costs and other material costs estimated by management that were considered to have been impacted by the UK Government reviews that followed the issues on the EM and PECS contracts). We believe that in the future the Group should report its results (and provide its future guidance) on metrics that are more closely aligned to statutory measures. Accordingly, our outlook for 2015 is now expressed in terms of Revenue and Trading Profit. The revenue measure is consistent with the IFRS definition, and therefore excludes Serco’s share of joint venture revenue. Trading Profit, which is otherwise consistent with the IFRS definition of operating profit,adjusts only to exclude amortisation and impairment of intangibles arising on acquisition, as well as exceptional items. Trading Profit is therefore lower han the previously defined Adjusted Operating Profit measure due to the inclusion of Serco’s share of joint venture interest and tax charges. We believe that reporting and forecasting using metrics that are consistent with IFRS will be simpler and more transparent, and therefore more helpful to investors.

This is something whcih I haven’t seen before that actually a company is going back from “adjusted” reporting to statutory which I find is very positive.

Another good part can be found later in the statement from the CFO (by the way another Aggreko veteran) regarding the implementation of ROIC:

A new measure of pre-tax return on invested capital (ROIC) has been introduced in 2014 to measure how efficiently the Group uses its capital in terms of the return it generates from its assets. Pre-tax ROIC is calculated as Trading Profit divided by the Invested Capital balance. Invested Capital represents the assets and liabilities considered to be deployed in delivering the trading performance of the business.

I always like to see return on capital as an important measurement for businesses and implementing this is clearly a great step forward.

Another interesting fact from the Renumeration report: Both new board members have significantly lower salaries than the old, outgoing board members. Soames has a 800 k base salary, Cockburn 500 k. both pretty reasonable numbers.

However the big problem for me is that I know next to nothing about the business of Government outsourcing. So for me it is at this time very difficult to assess how attractive the stock is and how long it will take to recover.

The current management is clearly a good one but I am not sure if the underlying business is a good one as well. Especially those long-term contracts do seem to contain significant risks. Page 50 and following pages in the report provides  a very good view in great on what can go wrong with long dated contracts. In many cases, Serco was locked into fix price contracts and costs went against them without having a chance to do anything about it.

On the other hand, the 1,5 bn write-off for sure is conservative and one could/should expect that it contains some “reserves” which might be released in coming years.

Deeply discounted rights issues in general

Another word of caution here: A couple of discounted rights issues I looked at in the past were actually not very good investments.

Severfield was a good one with around +50% outperformance against the Footsie since the rights issue in March 2013. KPN even outperformed the Dutch Index by ~+62% in the two years and Unicredit even more than 70%.

On the other hand, Monte di Pasci underperformed by -70% against the index since their rights issue  and Royal Imtech by -45%. EMAK finally performed more or less in line with the index over time after the capital increase.

So overall, the score of outperformers to underperformers would be 3,5:2,5. With Royal Imtech it was pretty easy to see that it would be difficult, as there was a significant accounting fraud involved. BMPS also looked like a big problem as the rights issue was to small and another one is in the making.

So the question is clearly: Is Serco more like Severfield/KPN or Royal Imtech ? For the time being I would rather look at Serco more positively, mostly due to management.

Not surprisingly, analysts hate Serco. the company has one of the lowest consensus ratings within the Stoxx 600. This alone is not a reason to buy, but at least might explain a potential under valuation. A final note: Soames might not be a bad choice for running a Government outsourcing company. His ancestry should ensure some viable contacts at government level:

Rupert Soames can just remember his grandfather, Sir Winston Churchill. His earliest memories are of playing cowboys and Indians with Britain’s wartime prime minister – and of not being allowed to attend his state funeral. He was six at the time and furious: “Watching it on TV was a very poor substitute,” he once said.

His family has long been part of the political establishment: his father Christopher was the last governor of southern Rhodesia, now Zimbabwe, who served in Margaret Thatcher’s cabinet and was also a European commissioner, while his brother Nicholas is a current Tory MP.


Overall, the Serco case does look interesting. A brilliant management team is trying to turn around a troubled Government contractor with a transparent and plausible strategy. On the other hand, the business is a difficult one or at least I do not have a lot of knowledge about this sector so I need to digg more into it.

So for the time being, I will watch this from the sidelines and maybe try to learn more about this sector in general.

The Dutch Job: Royal Imtech (NL0006055329) Deeply discounted rights issue – The “short opportunity of the century”

I had written about Royal Imtech, the troubled Dutch service company already a couple of times. The short story: Growth star encounters fraud and too much debt.

Somehow, I lost them from my radar screen until today. Already in August, they announced that they will do another rights issue, this time aiming for 600 mn EUR, after having raised 500 mn in 2013.

The funny thing is the way they actually do this which even puts my favourite “Italian Job” companies at shame:

Following the approval granted by the General Meeting on 7 October 2014, Royal Imtech N.V. (“Royal Imtech” or the “Company”) announces a 131 for 1 fully underwritten rights offering of 60,082,154,924 new ordinary shares with a nominal value of EUR 0.01 each (the “Offer Shares”) at an issue price of EUR 0.01 per Offer Share (the “Issue Price”). For this purpose, and subject to applicable securities laws and the terms of the prospectus dated 8 October 2014 (the “Prospectus”), existing holders of ordinary shares in the share capital of Royal Imtech (“Ordinary Shares”) as at 17:40 CEST on 8 October 2014 (the “Record Date”) are being granted transferable subscription rights (“Rights”) pro rata to their existing shareholdings (the “Rights Offering”, and together with the Rump Offering (as defined below) the “Offering”). No Rights will be granted to Royal Imtech as a holder of Ordinary Shares in its own capital. The Rights will entitle the holders thereof, provided they are Eligible Persons, to subscribe for 131 Offer Shares for every Right held at the Issue Price, subject to applicable securities laws and in accordance with the terms and subject to the conditions set out in the Prospectus. The Issue Price per Offer Share represents a discount of approximately 21.7% to the theoretical ex-rights price (“TERP”) based on the share price of EUR 0.3763 at Euronext in Amsterdam (“Euronext Amsterdam”) after close of business on 7 October 2014 and 458,642,404 shares issued and outstanding at the same date (thus excluding treasury shares

So before the rights issue, the market value of the company was around 0,38*458 mn shares= 175 mn EUR. Today is the first day where Royal Imtech trades “ex rights”. Just as a little refresher the formula for calculating the value of the right (to buy 131 shares at 0,01 EUR) before trading:

(0,3763-0,01)*131/132= 0,3635

So theoretically the price of Royal Imtech should be today: 0.3763-0.3635 = 0,0128 EUR. a little more than one cent.

Let’s look what the shareprice is doing today:

Imtech is trading at 0,09 EUR, around 800% higher where it should trade !!!!! On the other hand, the rights trade only at 0,17 EUR at the time of writing, a discount of 50% to the theoretical value (as of yesterday).

This leaves the question: Why are investors paying today 9 cents for the shares which they can buy via the rights at a little over 1 cents per share in 2 weeks time ? I have no answer. MAybe people (and computers) mixed up the decimals and think the new shares come at 0,10 EUR ?

Anyway, if anyone is able to short Royal Imtech at this level, this would be the short of the century. You can short something at 0,09 EUR today and buy back at 0,01 in a few days. Nothing more to say….

Edit: Might be a good example for any student who is confronted with the “Efficienty markets hypothesis”.

Banca Monte dei Paschi Siena (BMPS)- Another deeply discounted rights issue “Italo style”

Capital Raising in Italy is always worth looking into. Not always as an investment, but almost always in order to see interesting and unusal things. I didn’t have BMPS on my active radar screen, but reader Benny_m pointed out this interesting situation.

Banca Monte dei Paschi Siena, the over 600 year old Italian bank has been in trouble for quite some time. After receiving a government bailout, they were forced to do a large capital increase which they priced in the beginning of last week.

The big problem was that they have to issue 5 bn EUR based on a market cap of around 2,9 bn.

After a reverse 1:10 share split in April, BMPS shares traded at around 25 EUR before the announcement. In true “Italian job” style, BMPS did a subscription rights issue with 214 new shares per 5 old shares at 1 EUR per share, in theory a discount of more than 95%.

The intention here was relatively clear: The large discount should lead to a “valuable” subscription right which should prevent the market from just letting the subscription right expire. What one often sees, such as in the Unicredit case is the following:

– the old investors sell partly already before the capital increase in order to raise some cash for the new shares
– within the subscription right trading period, there will be pressure on the subscription right price as many investors will try to do a “operation blanche”, meaning seling enough subscription rights to fund the exercise of the remaininng rights. This often results in a certain discount for the subscription rights

In BMPS’s case, the first strange thing ist the price of the underlying stock:

BMPS IM Equity (Banca Monte dei  2014-06-16 13-51-34

Adjusted for the subscription right, the stock gained more than 20% since the start of the subscription right trading period and it didn’t drop before, quite in contrast, the stock is up ~80% YTD. As a result of course, the subscription right should increase in value. But this is how the subscription rights have performed since they started trading:

MPSAXA IM Equity (Banca Monte de 2014-06-16 13-59-10

It is not unusual that the subscription rights trade at a certain discount, as the “arbitrage deal”, shorting stocks and going long the subscription right is not always easy to implement.

At the current price however, the discount is enormous::

At 1,95 EUR per share, the subscription right should be worth (214/5)* (1,95-1,00)= 40,66 EUR against the current price of 18 EUR, a discount of more than 50%. The most I have seen so far was 10-15%. So is this the best arbitrage situation of the century ?

Not so fast.

First, it seems not to be possible to short the shares, at least not for retail investors. Secondly, different to other subscription right situations, the subscription right are trading extremely liquid. Since the start of trading on June 9th, around 560 mn EUR in subscription rights have been traded, roughly twice the value of the ordinary shares. The trading in the ordinary shares themselves however is also intersting, trading volume since June 9th has been higher than the market cap.

Thirdly, for a retail investors, the banks ususally require a very early notice of exercise. So one cannot wait until the trading period and decide if to exercise or not, some banks require 1 week advance notice or more. My own bank, Consors told me that I would need to advice them until June 19th 10 AM, which is pretty OK but prevents me from buying on the last day.

In general, in such a situation like this the question would be: What is the mispriced asset, the subscription right or the shares themselves ? Coming from the subscription right perspective, the implicit share price would be 1+ (18/((214/5)*1,95-1)))= 1,44 EUR. This is roughly where BMPS traded a week before the capital increase.

For me it is pretty hard to say which is now the “fair” price, the traded stock price at 1,95, the implict price from the rights at 1,44 or somewhere in between. As the rights almost always trade at a discount, even in non-Italian cases, one could argue that there might be some 10-15% upside in buying the shares via the rights. On the other hand, I find the Italian stock market rather overheated at the moment and the outstanding BMPS shares are quite easy to manipulate higher due to the low market cap of the “rump shares” at around 200-250 mn EUR.

The “sure thing” would be to short the Stock at 1,96 EUR, but that doens’t seem to be possible.


Again, this “Italian right” capital raising creates a unique situation, this time with a price for the subscription right totally disconnected from the share price.

Nevertheless I am not quite sure at the moment what to to with this. One strategy would be to buy the subscription right now and then sell the new shares as quickly as possible, but it looks like that this is exactly what the “masterminds” behind this deal have actually want investors to do. They don’t care about the share price, they just want to bring in 5 bn EUR in fresh money and an ultra cheap subscription right is the best way to ensure an exercise. In this case we should expect a significant drop in the share price once the new shares become tradable. So for the time being am sitting on the sidelines and watch this with (great) interest as it is hard for me to “handicap” this special situation at the moment.

Quick check: Australian Vintage Ltd. (ISIN AU000000AVG6) – Deep Value Pearl or risky turn around Gamble ?

A very persistent commentator asked me about my opinion on Australian Vintage, an Australian Wine producer. In between, Nate from Oddball covered the stock and seemed to like it as an asset play .

Optically, the company looks dirt cheap (Bloomberg):

P/E 7
P/B 0,3
P/S 0,3
Dividend yield 10,5%

When I look at such “cheap” companies, I start reading the only annual report and concentrate only on problems. I tend to avoid company presentations as they usually only show the positive stuff. A 30 minutes “speed” read of the 2013 annual report shows already some issues:

– goodwill, brand values and DTAs make up ~100 mn AUD of the book value plus another 50 mn AUD or so for biological assets and water rights
– the 2013 profit includes a significant “one-off” reserve release. without that, 2013 profit would have been some 40% lower or the P/E well into “double digits”
– the company carries significant debt and lease obligations, overall around 240 mn AUD in the 2013 annual report
– the directors salary is at ~ 3 mn AUD a significant portion of the profit
– on the other hand, directors own only insignificant amounts of shares (AUD amount of shares ~20% of total annual salary)
– operating cashflow has been negative in 2013, so the dividend has not been “earned”
– Depreciation is around 7 mn AUD per year, investments only 4-5 mn in 2012, 2013. This looks like “underinvestment”.
– most “hard” assets (inventory, property etc.) are pledged for the loans
– all subsidiaries are explicitly guaranteed by the Holdco, so all loans are fully recourse against any asset
– bank loan covenants exist, but are not clearly reported:

The Group is also subject to bank covenants with its primary financier as follows:
– Equity must be above $210 million.
– Gross profit and earnings before interest and tax must exceed pre-defined levels

– the bank loan facilites mature in 2015 and will have to be renegotiated
– there are “related party dealings” with companies of the CEO (purchase of grapes etc.)

In October / November 2013, they did a massive capital increase (42 mn AUD) in order to pay back debt. Some might argue this is a good thing, but paying large dividends and in parallel doing large capital increases is a very bad sign and very bad capital management (among others, they had to pay around 5% fees on the raised capital).

One observation with regard to the capital increase proespectus: On page 35 they show that the capital increase will increase earnings per share due to lower interest rate expenses. However they use a pretty obvious “trick” here: they use an “average amount” of outstanding shares, not the relevant final amount of shares. With the full amount of shares (232 mn) instead of the “average”, the capital increase would of course be “dilutive”.

The first 6 months of fiscal 2014 looked better on the bottom line, but again includes a big reserve release. Operationally, the first 6 months of 2014 were a lot worse than the year before, especially the US turned from an operating profit to a loss.

Some additional thoughts:

– As an Australian asset play, the Australian Dollar plays a big role. As a non Australian investor, I might have a operational upside if the AUD goes lower, but asset value as a EUR investor will be lower as well
– the UK supermarkets who are the major non Australian clients, are under a lot of preassure themselves. They will squeeze their suppliers as hard as they can and will demand lower prices if the AUD becomes weaker
– return on assets is very low. If the 10 Year treasuries yield 3.7% and Return on assets is far below that than the value of the assets ist most likely overstated by a large margin
– moving “upscale” is not easy. This needs even more capital (oak barrels, longer ageing = higher inventory etc.) and time.
– from the main brand “McGuigan”, you can buy in Germany only the Shiraz which is currently on sale (4,95 EUR vs. 5,99 EUR) and a “Sparkling Shiraz” at 12,95 EUR. To upgrade from that level will be hard…..
– finally, the Australian wine industry seems to be one of the clearest victims of climate change. Water will become much more expensive and many grapes might not grow so well in the future. This could for instance seveely reduce the value both, of the land and teh biological assets. This study for instance shows that Australie is hit hardest globally. If this will realize, everything, land, machinery and “Biological assets” would loose most of their value.

Overall I think the main issue is that the interests of the Management and shareholders are not really aligned in this case. Especially the CEO, whose max target bonus has by the way doubled for next year, seems to be far more interested in his salary than the shares and it looks like that the majority of his own investments seem to be outside the listed companies. Combined with the relatively risky financial profile, this is clearly a “deep value” case with a significant risk especially close to the 2015 maturity of the loans.

Opposite to Nate, I can see a lot of things that could go wrong here and either trigger another massive capital increase or even a bankruptcy. As I do not know a lot about the Australian Wine industry either, I think I would pass on this investment as it is extremely difficult for me to handicap the probabilities and would therefore be a quite “risky turn around gamble”. As I don’t have any experience with Australian liquidation rules, I would also be really careful to expect meaningful recovery rates for shareholders in case of a bankruptcy / restructuring. If for instance the loans would get into the hand of aggressive “vultures” like Oaktree, I would bet that stated book values would not be worth a lot.

However for “deep value” specialists, this could be interesting if they are able to estimate the “survival probability” to a certain extent.

A side note: “Moving up the value chain” in wine usually means oak barrels. So despite the much higher valuation, I still think that Tonnelerie Francois Freres is the better (and safer) long term investment in the wine industry.

Update: Portugal Telecom & Oi Merger & Oi capital increase

DISCLAIMER: The stock discussed is again very risky and not a typical “value stock”. Please do your own homework and never commit large amounts of your capital to such investments. The author might buy or sell the shares without giving advance notice. Do your wn homework !!

Last year I had a mini series (part 1, part 2, part 3) about the merger between Portugal Telecom and the Brazilian Oi. My initial idea was a long PTC / short OI deal as the mechanics of the merger seemed to imply a signifcant dilution for OI shareholders.

Interestingly, since I wrote the first post in October 2013, both shares lost siginficantly, however Oi with around -37% more than double than PTC with -15%.

Oi is now in the process of preparing the planned capital increase and it looks that they did push through the share offering though there have been some hickups along the way.

Just as a quick reminder:

Oi was supposed to do a big capital increase first before then the company gets merged with PTC.

Oi seems to have priced the new shares aggresively at the bottom of the expected range:

Grupo Oi SA, Brazil’s largest fixed-line telephone carrier, priced an offering of preferred shares at 2 reais each, at the bottom of the indicative range set by bankers, sources said on Monday.

So at current prices with PTC at ~3 EUR and OI common shares at 2,50 Reais (or ~0,81 EUR) PTC sharesholders will receive “new shares” of OI at the value of 2,2911 Euros plus 0,6330 “CorpCo” shares which should equal common shares. So at 3 EUR there seems to be a small discount but I think this is hardly exploitable as an arbitrage situation.

For me, the current situation is an interesting combination of a special situation (capital increase regardless of price) and Emerging Markets exposure.

However, much more interesting for me is that aspect:

It is pretty clear that Oi wanted to raise a defined amount without really caring about the share price. This looks similar to EMAK and Unicredit in Italy 2 years ago. This is one of the rare cases where we clearly have a seller who does not care about the price but just wants to raise a fixed amount of money.

The “special-special” aspect of this one are the following feature:

1. We do not have subscription rights despite the massive amount of new shares
2. We have the additional complexity of the subsequent PTC merger

In such a situation, it is extremely hard to come up with a solid valuation of the business. Both, OI and PTC look very cheap on a trailing EV/EBITDA basis but honestly, i did not try to figure out how the combined entity will look like. Oi minorities clealry got screwed by this transaction whereas PTC shareholders had been protected to a certain extent.

The good part of the this capital raising is that the entity will have some fresh cash which will allow them to operate for some time. Although there is clearly the risk of further dilutions if they want to bid for instance for additional businesses in Brazil.


For me, the Oi capital increase looks very similar to situations like EMAK and Unicredit, where the companies issued new shares regardless of price. This increases the possibility that the price has been pushed significantly below fair value. Buying PTC now looks like an interesting way to get exposure to the merged entity at a depressed price. I will therefore invest a 1% position into PTC at current prices (3 EUR) for my “special situation” bucket.

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