Tag Archives: Electrica

Romania update: Electrica (great !!). Romgaz (so so) & new Prime Minister

Romania new Prime Minister

A few days ago, following the fatal fire in a Bucharest nightclub, prime minister Ponta surprisingly resigned following massive protests on the streets.

Interestingly, instead of quick new elections, a “technocrat” Government was nominated, lead by a former EU commission member.

He has nominated young and independent experts for the key portfolios of the economy, justice, foreign office and health.

Ciolos selected Anca Paliu Dragu, an economic analyst at the European Commission, to take over the Finance Ministry and Cristina Guseth, chief of Freedom House Romania, as Justice Minister.

On the other hand, experienced diplomat Lazar Comanescu was proposed as Foreign Affairs Minister, while Mihnea Motoc, Romania’s ambassador to Britain, was nominated as Defence Minister.

The Economy Minister will be businessman Costin Borc, and sociologist Vasile Dancu will have the role of Minister of Regional Development.

Political commentators saw the proposed government as pro-reform.

Up until now there was a political deadlock between the newly elected president Johannes and Socialist Ponta.

It reminds me a little bit of Mario Monti’s technocrat government in Italy which came into power after Berlusconi was forced out in 2011. Most of the Italian reforms were made in that short period of time. Before and after, not much has happened there. So from an outside view I would consider this whole episode as a step into the right direction.

Now to my 2 Romanian holdings:


Romgaz released 9 month numbers already some days ago. The good news was that the presentation looks more professional than before, the bad news is that sales and profits went down by slightly more than -10% against 9M 2014. Additionally they had exceptional write-offs on receivables and exploration assets.

Interestingly, margins remained pretty stable, helped by the underlying price increases that will bring the local prices up to market prices over several years.

They also made a regulatory filing which already contains a detailed projection for the 2015 profits and dividends. Based on that projection, the 2015 profit will be 1.032 mn Lei or ~ 2,67 Lei per share, significantly lower than the ~3,60 lei for 2014.  However in my opinion, this sounds worse than it actually is. It seems to be that current Nat Gas consumption in Romania has declined, I honestly don’t know why. But as the local Nat Gas prices at the moment are still very low and supposed to rise, that means that the gas which has stayed in the ground and not sold is getting more valuable. So I think the issue of the lower sales volume has only a limited effect on the value of the company as those reserves then can be sold higher in the future. So my initial valuation of Romgaz from a year ago is still valid.

The share price clearly has suffered but less than other energy stocks. Interestingly, Fondul Propritatea dumped 4% of Romgaz a few days prior to the release which, looking back now seems to have been “very fortunate” for them.

Anyway, for me Romgaz is still in the early phase of the investment period and for me there is no reason to change anything


Electrica also released Q3 numbers a couple of days ago. In contrast to Romgaz, Electrica’s numbers were excellent. The 9 month profit is already higher than the total 2015 profit I estimated last year in my initial case. The increase came exclusively from the distribution side which is very positive.

Additionally, Fondul Propritatae seems to have reopened negotiations on the minority stakes in the three operating companies. If Electrica could buy them at a valuation close to their own stock, this could create a lot of value for shareholders.

Overall, I think Electrica is one of my “highest conviction” ideas, the stock is extremely cheap and developing much better than I thought. It might take time until this get reflected in the stock price but I don’t have any reason to hurry.

One interesting detail: One of the supervisory board members had to resign because he became the new energy minister. Maybe this helps a little bit for better relationships with the regulator….


Short cuts: AS Creation, Fortum, KAS Bank annual report

AS Creation

As Creation is a stock I owned in the past. Last November I had quickly updated the case and written the following:

In any case, I don’t think AS Creation is interesting at the current level of 30 EUR. At a 2014 P/E of 15-20 (before any extra write-offs on Russia) there seems to be quite some turn around fantasy being priced in.

Just a few days ago, AS Creation came out with an anouncement. There will be no dividend and the loss for the year 2014 is 9,3 mn EUR, at the upper end of the communicated range. In parallel, the CFO left the company. The loss seems triggered by a 10 mn EUR FX loss and a 5 mn EUR fine in France. They did not give further details but one can assume that the German business wasn’t that great either.

In any case a good reminder that despite cheap fundamentals, not every “value stock” is good value.


Fortum is also a stock which I owned in the past. I sold them in autumn 2012 because I was not really convinced by the idea anymore.

Looking at the chart, we can see that Fortum has done OK since then, especially compared to like German utilities like RWE, which looked a lot cheaper back then:

Again a reminder that cheap doesn’t mean good. The even more interesting aspect is that a few days ago, Fortum finalised the sale of the Swedish power distribution grid to a consortium of pension plans and insurers for 4.4 bn EUR.

According to Reuters, the multiples were quite “Juicy” for the seller:

The deal values the network at around 16.6 times earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortization (EBITDA), the same as for Fortum’s Finnish grid sale in 2013.

16,6 times EBITDA for a business which is quite comparable to my portfolio stock Electrica is an interesting price point. Clearly, you need to take some kind of discount for a recently privatized Romanian company, but I think it clearly shows what kind of prices especially pension and insurance companies are ready to pay. This makes me feel even better about the prospects of Electrica than before.

KAS Bank annual report

When I looked first at KAS Bank 2 and a half years ago, i was drawn in mostly by a very low valuation and the solid business model with a good “mean reversion” potential. that’s what I wrote back then:


KAS Bank for me looks like a very interesting opportunity within the banking sector due to the following reasons:

+ attractive specialist business model (custodian)
+ cheap valuation even based on current “bottom of the cycle” earnings
+ valuation depressed because of overall hostility against banks
+ low or no analyst coverage
+ reversion to the mean speculation a lot less risky than with normal banks as virtually no risk of dilution (even Basel III standards are met by a wide margin)
+ potential upside ~100% over the next 3-5 years plus dividends+ low correlation / beta good portfolio diversifier

The upside has realized much quicker than i thought. As of now, including dividends, the stock return +75%. So good analysis, great return ? Well not really. Actually, if I am honest, this was mostly luck as I made a big mistake or omission when i analyzed the stock: I did not look at the pension liability. And this despite the fact that I have written and warned quite often about pensions.

In Kas Bank’s case I have ignored that because the plan was funded. That was a mistake and I will show you why.

Looking into the 2014 annual report of KAS Bank, we can see that they made a nice 24 mn EUR profit this year, which includes the one time effect of the canceled German JV. However, total equity DEcreased from 213 to 194 mn EUR. As the 2014 dividend is around 10 mn EUR, the question is clearly: Where did the other 35 mn EUR equity go ?

The solution to this question can be found on page 52, in the Comprehensive Income statement: KAS Bank lost 52,6 mn EUR pre tax) because of the increase in its pension liability. 2014 has been a brutal year for pensions. The discount rate has been reduced significantly. In 2013 I didn’t pay attention, but KAS Bank used 3,9% which was on the very high-end of permitted rates for EUR. In 2014 they had to slash this to 2,2% (page 80). It gets even crazier if we look at the gross numbers on page 81. The gross DBO increase 105 mn EUR from 182 mn to 287 mn. Luckily, some of that increase could be countered by asset increases. From an overfunding of 40 mn EUR, the plan went to break even. What really surprised me is the duration of the plan with around 22 years. The problem for me is the following: Despite the current funded status, there is a significant amount of risk in the plan. The gross size of the plan is 1,5 times the equity of KAS Bank. The run a significant equity allocation (85 mn EUR or ~ 45% of KAS Banks Equity). So in a scenario with a stock market crash with continuing low-interest rates, KAS Bank would pretty quickly be forced to do a capital increase.

Additionally, the current environment is clearly not helping KAS Bank in its core business. A custody bank is always deposit rich which is a problem now. Another second level problem is mentioned on page 18:

Treasury income, mainly securities lending, decreased by 20% to EUR 11.4 million (2013: EUR 14.3 million). The lower income from securities lending was primarily due to a market wide liquidity surplus which decreased
the prices for securities lending services.

This decrease happened even before the ECB started pumping liquidity into the markets.

So overall, I have been very lucky so far. I didn’t take into account the pension liability in my first analysis and fundamentals got worse for the business itself. Nevertheless I made good money because i bought cheap enough. Optically, the stock still looks priced oK at P/B 1, trailing P/E of 7 and 5,6% dividend yield, but fundamentally, especially looking at ultra low interest rates for quite some time, KAS Bank is in my view now at fair value.

However, I didn’t want to stretch my luck too far and therefore I sold the whole position at around 11,50 EUR per share.