Category Archives: Quick Check

All German shares Part 12 (Nr. 201-225)

The next 25 randomly selected company in my “Grand Tour Germany” project with 6 of them going onto my watch list. Enjoy !!

201. TTL Beteiligungs- und Grundbesitz AG

A 67 mn EUR market cap company that started as tech company in the boom, went bust and then reemerged as real estate company a few years ago. The company invests into real estate and real estate companies. As mentioned several times, not an area that I am much interested in. “Pass”.

202. FinLab AG

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Travel Series 8: GDS (Sabre, Amadeus, Travelport) – Ultimate travel platforms or Dinosaurs waiting for extinction ?

Time to do another “travel series” post after the last Tripadvisor post a few months ago.

GDS – The business

The so-called “GDS” (short form of Global Distribution System) is one of the oldest “platform business” I know about.

Basically (and as far as I understand it), it is a real-time repository of available airplane seats, hotel rooms and rental cars from different suppliers (airlines, Hotels etc.). This repository can then be accessed by travel agents, OTAs etc. in order to book these offers for their ultimate clients. The GDS charge money both for access to the system and transactions.  The added value comes clearly from the fact that they act as a single interface to many different back-end systems on the supplier side.

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Gaztransport (GTT), Cheniere (LNG), Swatch

Gaztransport – Dodged the bullet..

Well, that was quick. 2 weeks after I reviewed Gaztransport, they have dislosed the following:


Paris, 29 January 2016 – GTT (Gaztransport & Technigaz) announces that it received today a notification from the Korea Fair Trade Commission informing the company that an inquiry has been opened into its commercial practices with regard to its Korean shipyard clients.

The result: The stock price dropped  ~20% in two days:

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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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Quick check: John Deere (DE) – Great “cannibal” or cyclical trap ?

Looking at Berkshire’s portfolio is clealry a “must” for any value investor. Whenever they disclose a new stake it makes clearly a lot of sense to look at least briefly at what they are buying. Berkshire disclosed the John Deere position in late February this year. I assume this is a “Ted & Todd” stock. Looking at the track record of Berkshire’s public holdings, this is actually a good sign as Ted&Todd have beaten the “master” now several years in a row.

Looking quickly at Deere, it is not difficult to see some of the attractions:

+ relatively cheap (trailing P/E of 12,6, Stated EV/EBITDA of 5,5, EV EBIT 7)
+ organic growth, low Goodwill, good profitability in the past
+ good strategy /incentives in place
+ solid business model, significance of dealer network (quick repairs during harvest season…)
+ “Cannibal”, is massively buying back stocks

Especially the massive share buy backs are clearly a common theme for “Ted&Todd stocks”. Starting in 2014, Deer has reduced the sharecount constantly from around 495 mn shares to now ~344 mn shares.

However we can also see quickly a few “not so nice” things at Deere:

– pension /health liabilities (health – how to value ? 6bn uncovered. Very critical, healthcare sunk GM, not pension (EV multiples need to be adjusted for this)
– they do not cancel shares, held as “treasury”, why ?
– Financing business –> receivables & ROA most likely not “true”..
– lower sales but higher financing receivables ? Channel stuffing ?
– comprehensive income to net income volatility
– cyclical business. current profit margins still above historical average

Financing business

One of the most interesting aspects of John Deere is clearly the financing business. As other companies they offer financing, here mostly to dealers and not to the ultimate clients. A financing business is nothing else than an “in-house bank”, sharing much more characteristics with a financial than a corporate business, for instance requirement of continuous capital market access, default risk etc.

What I found especially interesting is the following: looking at Bloomberg, they already strip out automatically all the debt from the financing business when they show EV multiples. This could be OK if the debt is fully non-recourse however I am not so sure with Deere. Although they not explicitly guarantee the debt, there seems to be some “net worth maintenance” agreement in place which acts as a defacto guarantee for the debt.

An additional important point is the following: Deere shows very good profitability on capital in its “core” business. However, this is partly due to the fact that they show almost no receivables in the core segment. the receivables are indirectly shown in the financing business. To have the “true” ROIC or ROCE, one would need to add back several months of receivables to the core segment in my opinion.

Cyclical aspect: Corn prices

This is a 35 year chart of annual corn prices:

corn annual

We can clearly see that corn prices went up dramatically in around 2006 but are dropping since 2013 back to their historical levels. Demand for farm equipment is pretty easy to explain: If you make a lot of money on your harvest, you have money to spent for a new tractor (with a small time lag).

This is the 17 year history of Deere’s net margins:

Net margin
31.12.1998 7,52%
31.12.1999 2,08%
29.12.2000 3,76%
31.12.2001 -0,49%
31.12.2002 2,32%
31.12.2003 4,17%
31.12.2004 7,04%
30.12.2005 6,89%
29.12.2006 7,82%
31.12.2007 7,68%
31.12.2008 7,32%
31.12.2009 3,78%
31.12.2010 7,17%
30.12.2011 8,75%
31.12.2012 8,48%
31.12.2013 9,36%
31.12.2014 8,77%
Avg total 6,02%
Avg 2006-2014 7,68%
Avg. 1998-2005 4,16%

So it is quite interesting to see, that in the 7 years before the “price explosion” of corn, margins were quite volatile and around 4,2% on average. In the last 9 years however, the average jumped to 7,7% with 2014 being still above that “high price period” average.

Clearly, Deere doesn’t only sell to corn farmers, but many other agricultural prices have faced similar declines.

To be honest: I do not know enough if Deer can maybe keep the high margins they are enjoying currently, but to me at least the risk of margin mean reversion is pretty high for such a cyclical business.
Even if we assume mean reversion only to the overall average of ~6%, this would mean around 6 USD profit per share which seems to be currently also the analyst consensus.


For me, despite a lot of positive aspects, John Deere is not an attractive investment at the moment. Despite being well run, the business is cyclical and has profited from high crop prices in the past. The balance sheet is not as clean as I like it and the valuation is not that cheap if we factor in pensions and the financing arm. Clearly the stock looks relatively cheap to other US stocks but the risks are significant. Maybe there is more if one diggs deeper (network moats via dealers etc.) but for the time being I will look at other stuff. At an estimated 2015 P/E of 16-17, there are many opportunities which look relatively speaking more attractive and where I can maybe gain a better “informational advantage” than for such a widely researched stock.

Edit: By the way, if someone has a view on the moat / brand value of John Deere I would be highly interested……

Updates: Admiral CEO, Lloyds Banking, Cranswick + Editorial (Comments)

Editorial stuff:

While I was away (without access to my account) some people complained that their comments were not shown while other comments went through. The reason is the WordPress commenting system. If you comment for the first time, I need to manually approve this first comment. Once you are approved, further comments appear automatically if you login and comment the same way than you had done for the first time. So for anyone who commented for the fist time in the last 2 weeks, the comments were still in the “to be approved queue”.
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Short cuts: Admiral, KAS Bank, NN Group

Some quick updates on preliminary numbers form 3 of my financial stocks:


Admiral released “preliminary annual” numbers yesterday. EPS declined slightly which was not a big surprise. My take aways at a first glance:

– UK car still tough, UK comparison some issues due to competition, however cycle might turn in 2015
– slowing growth in Italy

+ Italy at break even, break even in Spain expected for 2015
+ US growing strongly
+ Intenational comparison sites profitable

The CEO letter is again a must-read for anyone who is interested in Admiral and/or insurance. These guys are really different.

KAS Bank

Kas Bank came out already a few days ago with a press release on preliminary 2014 numbers. EPS almost doubled to 1,65 EUR due to the already mentioned one time effect. “Normal” earnings would have been around 0,74 EUR per share.

On the negative side, KAS Bank’s equity has been siginficantly reduced by an increase in the pension liability due to lower discount rates. Additionally they announced that they will expense 5 mn or so p.a. of the one-time gain as “investments”. Top line income acually fell but they were able to cut costs quicker. Overall, if low or negative rates will remain for a lnger time, the upside potential of KAS Bank now seems to be limited.

NN Group

Finally, NN Group came out with their 2014 results already 4 weeks ago. As with any life insurance company, they are quite difficult to interpret. What I found quite intereting is the fact that they said that their Solvency II ratio under the Standard model is 200%. Normally, most internal models show much higher solvency ratios than the standard model. In my opinion. NN Group remains the best (and only !!!) European Life insurance company to invest in despite the overall extremely difficult environment.

In any case, I will need to analyse all cases in more detail once the annual reports come out, especially with regard to KAS Bank and the pension issue.

Quick check: Adidas AG (ISIN DE000A1EWWW0) – will this fallen angel rise again ?

Adidas, the iconic German sportswear company, seems to be a big topic for value investors these days. A couple of my readers mentioned Adidas in the comments and also Geoff Gannon thinks it is cheap at least compared to Nike and Under Armour.

Over the past decade or so, Adidas was a great performer, riding mostly on the “Emerging Markets consumer” megatrend. This year however the share price is down ~-37% at the time of writing,:

Nevertheless, the Stock is still not really cheap on an individual basis:

P/E 19
P/B 2,2
P/S 0,9
Dividend yield 2,6%

Since a couple of weeks, there are constant rumours that some activist hedge fund will sooner or later appear and press for changes how the company is run.

Maybe in order to make it harder for activists or other potential “predators”, Adidas just announced a 1,5 bn share buy back over 3 years. According to the Reuters article this seems to be a rather quick change of mind:

Chief Executive Herbert Hainer said in August that Adidas had no plans for a share buyback.

Adidas also just launched a 1 bn EUR bond issue, most likely to fund some of the share repurchases. The bond issue however doesn’t seem to have been a smashing success.

Why did the share price go down so much ?

They had to issue a couple of profit warnings in the last few months. According to Adidas, two reasons are to blame: The issues in Russia, a core market for Adidas and the problems with the Golf business (Taylormade).

With the football World cup in Brazil, everyone thought that Adidas will have a record year, but as of 6m 2014, Profit declined by ~.27%. Adidas is the German company with the largest share of Russian sales in the DAX 30 index with around 7,5% of total sales. Doing badly in a year with a football Worldcup is not a good omen for the eventless next year.

What I don’t like at Adidas:

When I look at an expensive company like Adidas, I always look out for things I don’t like. After reading the 2012 & 2013 annual report, here are my “don’t like” point:

– management targets do not include capital profitability
– growth in recent years mostly from retail business
– Sales decreased already in 2013, 2014 just extends the negative trend
– they blame FX for most of their problems but that is part of the normal risk of doing business in Emerging Markets
– Adidas is doing Ok, but both Reebock and Taylormade are shrinking
– as with EVS, 2014 should have been a fantastic year (Brazil, Socchi). 2015, without any big events will most likely be even worse
– US as a strategic growth market does not make that much sense to me
– comprehensive income is lacking net income by a wide margin
– reporting overall is not very good, lots of “Marketing stuff”, critical figures like profitability per region are missing

What I like

– clearly iconic brand with growth potential especially in EM
– relatively conservative balance sheet
– management salaries are relatively low compared to total profit

Let’s look at some issues in more detail:

Retail business

If you look at their historical numbers, a large part of the recent growth comes from their “retail segment”. They started opening own stores some years ago and have expanded them fast. In 2013, the traditional business which they call “whole sale” already shrunk and only retail had some growth. However retail is lower margin business (Operating margins ~20% against 30+%). They expanded their stores much more aggresively than Nike, especially in Emerging Markets.

Also, retail business in my opinion is riskier than their core business. If you are in retail, you are also in Real Estate. With the threat of the internet (Zalando, Amazon), they are walking on a thin line.

Interestingly, despite paying ~600-700 mn rents p.a. they are only disclosing 1,7 bn of operating lease liabilities. I am not sure what to make of this, it looks like they are only renting short-term which might be OK if EM continue to be weak.

Currency Management:

According to the CEO’s letter in the 2013 annual report, Adidas doesn’t hedge FX risk in Emerging Markets as it is “too expensive”. Well, that’s complete nonsense in my opinion. Of course it is expensive, but for an EM based retail business, not hedging FX is almost suicide. A retailer in Russia is short the USD vs. Rubles twice: First, all the merchandise will be imported from China on a Dollar basis. Secondly, most of the rental contracts will be in USD as well. Sales will be made however in Rubles, so if the Ruble declines against the Dollar, all the nice margins just disappear.

Instead of hedging, the report “currency neutral” sales growth etc. In my opinion this is definitely a weakness especially if you compare Adidas to their major rival Nike. If you look into the annual report of Nike, you can see on page 77 & 78 that they have a pretty sophisticated hedging program in place, which creates a lot less volatility in stated net income AND comprehensive income.

Comprehensive income

As this is often the case, the Comprehensive Income of Adidas is hidden deep within the annual report, in this case it is mentioned the first time on page 189. And, as it is not surprising, Comprehensive income is a lot lower than Net income as the table shows and also much more volatile compared to competitor Nike:

Adidas     Nike    
  EPS CI in % EPS CI in%
30.12.2009 1,25 -0,4 -33,0% 1,99 1,81 90,8%
30.12.2010 2,71 4,4 161,9% 2,22 2,12 95,6%
30.12.2011 2,93 4,0 137,2% 2,48 2,48 99,7%
28.12.2012 2,52 1,5 60,9% 2,65 2,81 106,2%
30.12.2013 3,76 2,2 59,4% 3,02 2,83 93,6%
Total 13,17 11,8 89,3% 12,36 12,04 97,4%

Most analysts would ignore this, as they would call this a “non cash” accounting effect. But especially currency movements in the comprehensive income in my opinion have enormous predictive value. Although its true that the initial currency movement (i.e. the decline of the NAV of foreign subsidiaries) does not impact the cashflow, a permanently lower value of the foreign currency will clearly lower the future profits of the company, especially if they don’t hedge.

Ignoring this effect is like looking at your stock portfolio and ignoring the currency movements if you calculate performance. You can do this, but it does not reflect the underlying value.

Strategy & Capital allocation

Adidas’ strategy to focus on Emerging markets has paid of, despite set backs like currently in Russia. What I don’t understand why the want to target the US. In the US, they have no advantage against Nike, rather the opposite. Nike is much bigger in the Us and clearly has economies of scale against Adidas in advertising expenses.

In my opinion, this is mostly due to the fact, that return on capital is not part of the targets for Adidas management. They have target like sales growth, operating margins and some nonsense stuff like EUR amounts for investments, but no return on investment or return on invested capital targets. Nike, th main competitor, reports ROIC

This leads more often than not to chasing growth for growth sake and not creating value. In my opinion, Adidas clearly has a strategy & incentive issue here.

Brand & Moat

There are different opinions on this topic, but for me , a brand is not a moat. It is a competitive advantage, especially as we have seen in “new markets” like the EM, but on the other hand, brands can easily loose their power if they are not well managed. A sports brand like Adidas in my opinion is even more difficult than a “luxury brand”. Sports brands define themselves via sports stars. Signing sports stars or teams gets more and more expensive and when you are unlucky, your expensive star turns out to be a sex maniac or drug abuser and all the money is for nothing.

A real strong brand allows you to make above average margins and returns on capital, which somehow Adidas fails to deliver compared to some of its competitors.


At a 2014 PE of 19, Adidas is clearly not in value territory, based on Comprehensive income, the stock looks even more expensive. In order to justify an investment, one would either need to assume EPS growth or multiple expansion. Yes, Nike trades at a lot higher multiple, but it is also a lot better company than Adidas with much better earnings quality. I also have doubts, that Adidas will increase stated EPS in 2015. Without a major sports event and with Russia still critical, they should rather be happy to maintain current profits.

The share repurchase will maybe add to EPS, but overall, for me Adidas is not a buy at the moment. If you are an event-driven investor wanting to bet on a short-term bump by someone like Icahn, Loeb etc. it could be interesting.


Adidas is a company with an iconic brand, however stand-alone it is already quite expensive and the company has at best average management. Earnings quality in my opinion is clearly lower than for competitor Nike. Some activist investors might indeed shake up things a little bit and bump up the share price in the short-term, but the company is clearly facing a very difficult year in 2015. “Turning around” Adidas and bring them to Nike’s level in my opinion is not just spinning off Reebock and Taylermade, but a real change in startegy and incentives.

Adidas is clearly a bet on the Emerging Market consumer, which might work out over the long-term but is somehow maybe difficult in the short and mid-term. There are also cheaper stocks available if one wants to bet on an EM revival. On top of that, I am clearly no expert on branded sports good so for me, this would only a buy if it would look cheap from an absolute point of view, which it doesn’t.

Quick check: Grindeks AS (ISIN LV0000100659) – P/E 4.9, P/B 0.6 Baltic value or “red flag” alert ?


Via my “home forum”, someone brought up the Latvian Pharma company Grindeks AS. The company looks similar form the business model to Hungarian company EGIS and Croatian Krka which I covered some months ago

Valuation wise, the stock looks like a clear “no brainer”:

Market cap: 62 mn EUR (at ~7 EUR per share)
P/E trailing 4.9
P/B 0,59
P/S 0,6

ROIC, ROE, net margins all solid “double digit” numbers. My own, mechanical “Boss Score” would indictae a fair value of at least 3 times the current market cap.
The only issue coming up is the fact that the company never paid a dividend.

There is also a quite obvious reason why the stock is cheap: The majority of sales goes to neighbouring Russia, which clearly is not very popular with investors these days. As I do not have an issue with this “Headline risk” as long as I get compensated accordingly, I looked into the annual report 2013 in order to find out more.

As with Australian Vintage, I scan the report for unusual or problematic things first.

In Grindeks case, I was puzzled by a quite unusual balance sheet position called “Advance payments for financial investments “ something which I haven’t seen before. The explanation in the notes says the following:

In 2012 the Company has signed purchase agreement with Dashdirect Limited regarding purchase of the controlling interest in the equity of HBM Pharma (Slovakia). As of the date of signing these financial statements the agreement is partly completed. The main activity of the HBM Pharma is production of the medical substances. As of December 31, 2013 the Company’s and Group statement of financial position contains advance payments related to the before mentioned purchase agreement in the amount of EUR 11,670,000. The Group management is certain that this deal is going to be finalized during 2014.

In my experience, it is not uncommon to take over M&A targets in several steps, but it is quite uncommon to pay money first and get nothing in return. A few days ago, Grindeks issued another news item which covered this strange transaction.

The numbers look OK, Grineks seem to pay only 6 times P/E of the target company. However another sentence looked strange:

Orders of JSC «Grindeks» make up about 30% of the total “HBM Pharma” s.r.o. turnover

So they are buying a company where they are the biggest customer anyway, also strange. So I decided to google a little bit and found this:

On July 8, 2010 Lithuanian-domiciled Central and Eastern European (CEE) specialty pharmaceutical company Sanitas, AB sold its 100% shareholding in subsidiary HBM Pharma s.r.o in Slovakia to Latvian company Liplats 2000, SIA. HBM Pharma was primarily engaged in toll manufacturing activities and the entity has been sold with all of its existing toll manufacturing contracts. As previously announced, sales, marketing and regulatory divisions in Slovakia and the Czech Republic were separated from HBM Pharma and retained in Sanitas Group prior to the divestment.
Sanitas acquired HBM Pharma (previously named Hoechst Biotika) from Sanofi Aventis in July 2005.

So a Latvian company called Liplats 2000 bought HBM in 2010. Googling further, I found this document on HBM’s website, describing a cross border merger between Liplats 2000 and HBM. The most interesting part of this document ist the last line in the final page: From Liplats side, a guy called Kirovs Lipman signed.

Now Kirovs Lipmans happens to be the majority shareholder of Grindeks. So effectively, Grindeks is buying this M&A target from theit majority shareholder (and former CEO). This is from Grindeks annual report:

Kirovs Lipmans – Chairman of the Council Born in 1940. Kirovs Lipmans has been the Chairman of the Council of “Grindeks” since 2003. Simultaneously K.Lipmans is also the President of the Latvian Hockey Fede
ration, the Member of the Executive Committee of the Latvian Olympic Committee, the Chairman of the Board of “Liplats 2000” Ltd. and JSC “Grindeks” Foundation „For the Support of Science and Education”, the Chairman of the Council of JSC “Kalceks” and JSC “Tallinn pharmaceutical plant”, also the Member of the Council of JSC “Liepajas Metalurgs”. Graduated from the Leningrad Institute of Railway and Transport

So to summarize it at this point: Grindeks never paid any dividends but makes a major acquisition and pays money upfront to a company controlled by the majority shareholder, without any disclosure of this potential conflict of interest.

Of course, theoretically, this could have been an “arm’s length” deal with no disadvantages for Grindeks, but the probability that something is “fishy” is quite high, combined with the fact that they never paid dividends.

Maybe I am too cautious here, but an undisclosed significant “related party” transaction is a big red flag for me.

Coincidentally, Grindeks also issued Q1 numbers a few days ago which didn’t look good. Sales in Russia tumbled. This seems to be a very Grindeks specific problem, as for instance Krka showed strong Russian sales in Q1 despite the “Russian crisis”.

Just to be clear: A “red flag” doesn’t need to be the ultimate “value driver”. Reply SpA is a good example. Since my “red flag” alert, the stock made a whopping 276% return.

For me, Grindeks is, depsite the attractive valuation, an absolute no -go. Undisclosed related party transactions combined with a lack of dividend makes this a speculation rather than a value investment. I don’t know if there are Corporate activists in the baltics, but this would be a good target. Additionally, they seem to have some specific operating issues as well, so no buy, watch only.

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.

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