Tag Archives: MIFA

MIFA Update (2) – And why I would prefer Russian shares to German Bonds

The story around the German bicylce producer MIFA seems to get more and more interesting. Yesterday I posted the update on the (not so surprising) losses detected now from previuos years of dubious inventory accounting.

A few minutes after I published the post, MIFA came out with another “breaking news” which starts the following way:

MIFA: Investment agreement with Indian bike manufacturer HERO concluded,
equity investment pursuant to capital increases from authorised capital

– Investment agreement with OPM Global B.V., a subsidiary of Hero Cycles
Ltd., about an equity capital investment in the amount of EUR 15
million concluded

– FERI EuroRating Services AG reduced issue rating of corporate bond

– Annual General Meeting expected for third quarter of 2014

From the headline one would conclude that the rich Indian “uncle” finally will save the company. Handelsblatt for instance translated this into a headline which one could translate into “MIFA secures investor”.

For the real “juice” of this announcement, you have to read down a little bit towards the end of the annoncement:

The investment commitment by OPM Global B.V. entails significant financial contributions of MIFA’s financing partners and is subject to various conditions precedent, especially to the condition of a haircut in the amount of EUR 15-20 million of the bondholders as well as an exemption from the German Financial Supervisory Authority (BaFin) from the obligation to make a public takeover offer under the The German Securities Acquisition and Takeover Act.

So to understand this again, the facts:

– The 2013 issued MIFA bond has a total volume of 25 mn EUR
– most likely, the covenants of the bonds are breached, so MIFA would have to pay back the bond on short notice
– the “Indian uncle” will only invest, if bond holders accept a haircut of 60-80%

Normally, if a company cannot pay back a bond, the company will go into default. the shareholders will be wiped out and the company then changes ownership from the shareholders to creditors i.e. bondholders for instance via a debt/equity swap.

at MIFA, they try to reverse the order. Let’s look at another part of the announcement: Hero is commiting to pay 15mn for the following shares:

The cash capital increases shall comprise a 10% capital increase with subscription rights being excluded and a subsequent rights issue with a total number of 4.9 million new shares to be issued. OPM Global B.V. has undertaken to subscribe all such shares which together with additional existing shares to be transferred from
certain existing shareholders would result in an overall participation of the investor of up to 47 %.

With currently 9,8 mn shares, only (0,98 +4.9) = 5.88 mn new shares will be issued. With a total new sharecount of 15,68 mn shares, the old shareholders would keep economically (9,8/15,68) =62,5% of the company while senior bondholders would keep only 20-40% of their bond prinicpal. In my opinion it should be the other way round.

It will be interesting to see if bondholders are accepting this pretty obvious blackmailing. The argument will most likely be that if they don’t accept, they will end up with nothing. Praktiker by the way tried a similar tactic, going to bondholders first . In Praktiker’s case, both shareholders and bondholders ended with nothing.

That the proposed transaction would be better for shareholders than for bond holders shows clearly in the price action this morning. While the bond lost further from around 33% to around 27% (or -20% in relative terms), the shares are up more than +20% at the time of writing.

Coming back to my headline: When i bought my first two small Russian share positions (Sberbank, Sistema) many people commented that they would never buy Russian shares because property rights are not respected in Russia. This might be even correct, but you get very cheap valuations and if they do respect property rights, tzhe potential upside is high.

In German bond markets however, property rights are even worse in my opinion once a company is in trouble. As we learned at IVG, subordinated bond holders can be wiped out without blinking an eye and looking at the last few cases, senior bond holders are now expected to rescue the company before shareholders commit a single cent. Under German insolvency proceedings, often the old management carries on (WGF) and wipes out bondholders as they wish. However, other than in Russia, there is no upside to this if you buy a newly issued German bond at par. So for me, if I would need to choose between a newly issued German Corporate bond and a Russian stock, the choice is clear….

The sad part of this story is that this event along with many other similar event will hurt corporate bond issuance in Germany in the long run, especially for smaller companies. With the banks continuing to shrink, this is not good news for those German Mittelstand companies who need debt funding.

I am somehow tempted to become a “bond activist” here….Let’s see how this continues….

Updates: MIFA & Nuclear decommissioning liabilities

Just a few quick comments on events that caught my eye while I was on vacation:


As predicted in my post some weeks ago, the troubles of MIFA were clearly not a temporary 2013 “accounting system” issue but a result of dubious inventory accounting over multiple years (or simply stated – fraud):

This is the quote from the news release last week:

In the course of investigations by the Management Board and Supervisory Board of MIFA, it has been detected that also the previous years’ financial statements contain material misstatements. These misstatements relate to the inventories of raw materials, consumables and supplies as well as finished goods. Recent findings show a cumulative inventory difference in the amount of approximately EUR 19 million, which originate from the financial statement 2012 and previous years.

This is what I wrote 7 weeks ago, just based on public information:

I do not claim to really understand what MIFA was doing and I have no idea if they will survive or not. However, just by looking at their historical material costs and inventory level, it seems unlikely that the newly introduced accounting system could be responsible for a 15 mn loss. For me it is much more likely that the inventory build up at least since mid 2012 lead to overstated results over a longer period of time. The 15 mn loss announced seems to contain a significant write down on inventory as well. I could imagine that they might have to restate older financial statements as well.

Both, stock and bond look like “terminal decline”:

It looks like that the company lost money for a long time and made profits only by faking inventory levels.

I have often said that Grman listed Chinese companies are fraud, but clearly we have a lot of “home grown fraud” here as well. It will be interesting to see if someone is going to jail for this. I guess not

German utilities / decommissioning liabilites

Some months ago, I looked briefly at Eon’s nuclear decommissioning liabilites, which, in my opinion were clearly under reserved as the discount rate of 5% is far above anything being used elsewhere. That’s what I wrote back then:

EON has 16 bn EUR of reserves on its balance sheet for the decommissioning of nuclear power plants. Those 16 bn are clearly already reserved in the balance sheet, but as they will be due in cash rather sooner than later, they should be clearly treated as debt and added to Enterprise value.

However, there is a second issue with them: For some reasons, they are allowed to discount those amounts with 5% p.a. This is around 2% higher than for pension liabilities which in my opinion is already quite “optimistic”. They do not offer any hint about the duration of those liabilities, but if we assume something like 10-15, just adjusting the discount rate to pension levels would increase those reserves by 3-5 bn and reduce book value by the same amount.

I was therefore quite surprised that there seem to be negotiations that the German Government will take over those liabilities. Here is a “Spiegel” article in German which points ut that there seem to be supporters for this on the political side.

The argument made is that if the Government takes over the liabilities, they would not bear the credit risk of the utilities. However that argumentation has some serious flwas:

– the German utilities have indeed made reserves on their liability side, but they are clearly NOT backed by cash on the asset side. In the table I linked to one can clearly see that the liabilites are only partly financed by liquid assets. If we take out working capital requirements, my assumption would be that less than 50% is backed by liquidi assets.

– as I said before, the current liabilites are clearly underreserved. Without knowing anything about the technical aspects, alone the 5% discount rate used indicates 20-40% under reserveing depending on the duration of the liabilites and based on EON’s cost of debt. Clearly if the German Government would take over the liabilities, we would need to discount at German Government rates meaning the fair value or better cost to the taxpayer might be more than 50% more than reserves.

If the utilities would be succesfull with this, both, EON and RWE would be a strong buy and the German taxpayer a strong sell. Maybe I should hedge my position as a German tax payer with a long position in RWE and EON ?

Quick MIFA update – How to “play” covenants

Disclosure: No position, for educational purposes only.

2 weeks ago I had a quick look at the troubles at MIFA, the German bicycle manufacturer.

The official version was that they had a short term problem with their accounting but no liquidity issues. This was the last paragraph of their press release in MArch:

MIFA expects to break even at the after-tax level in the first quarter of 2014. It will not be possible for the company to issue a reliable guidance concerning the full 2014 financial year until the preparation of the annual financial statements has been completed. The company has sufficient liquidity for its operating business.

So it was quite surprising that the company today, MIFA announced the following:

– The CEO is now gone forever
– they did a “sale-lease back” of their real estate to the local Government, raising 5,7 mn EUR

So to a certain extent they do seem to have liquidity issues, otherwise they would not sell their “last shirt” for cash. The more interesting part for me is the fact that “sale-lease back” is economically nothing else than a “secured loan” on the real estate.

Looking into the bond prospectus, the outstanding bond includes a so-called “Negative Pledge” covenant:

Der Emittent verpflichtet sich, solange Schuldverschreibungen ausstehen, jedoch nur bis zu dem Zeitpunkt, an dem alle Beträge an Kapital und Zinsen, die gemäß den Schuldverschreibungen
zu zahlen sind, der Zahlstelle zur Verfügung gestellt worden sind, keine Grundpfandrechte, Pfandrechte oder sonstige dingliche Sicherungsrechte (jedes solches Sicherungsrecht ein “Sicherungsrecht”) in Bezug auf ihren gesamten Geschäftsbetrieb oder ihr gesamtes Vermögen oder ihre Einkünfte, jeweils gegenwärtig oder zukünftig, oder Teile davon zur Sicherung von anderen Kapitalmarktverbindlichkeiten oder zur Sicherung einer vom Emittenten oder einer seiner Tochterunternehmen gewährten Garantie oder Freistellung bezüglich einer Kapitalmarktverbindlichkeit einer anderen Person zu bestellen, ohne gleichzeitig für alle unter den Schuldverschreibungen zahlbaren Beträge dasselbe Sicherungsrecht zu bestellen oder für alle unter den Schuldverschreibungen zahlbaren Beträge solch ein anderes Sicherungsrecht zu bestellen, das von einer unabhängigen, international anerkannten Wirtschaftsprüfungsgesellschaft als gleichwertig anerkannt wird. Dies gilt vorbehaltlich bestimmter Ausnahmen.
“Kapitalmarktverbindlichkeit” bezeichnet jede Verbindlichkeit aus Schuldverschreibungen oder ähnliche verbriefte Schuldtitel oder aus Schuldscheindarlehen oder aus dafür übernommenen Garantien und/oder Gewährleistungen.

The covenants do actually prevent them to take out a typical German “Schuldscheindarlehen” against their real estate. Interestingly, an economically equivalent sale-lease back (which will be booked as financial liability) doesn’t seem to violate this covenant.

Should for some reason, MIFA go bankrupt, the recovery for the bondholders will be significantly lower than before as the real estate now belongs to someone else and will not be part of any liquidation proceeds.

I find it interesting how easy it is to circumvent such covenants with economically equivalent transaction. A reason more to stay as far away as possible from German corporate bonds in general and the so-called “Mittelstandsanleihen”. There is no “seniority” of those senior bonds, those instruments are clearly “junior” capital for German corporates. Nevertheless, bondholders seemed to like it:

It will be interesting to see if today’s bounce in the bond price is similar to what happened at Praktiker when they announced their first “rescue” and the bond price doubled from 40% to 80% before then collapsing to close to zero. Or maybe the Indians are already on their way with big suitcases full of frsh money. Who knows ? But a lot to learn for bond investors.