Tag Archives: Private Equity

SAPEC SA (ISIN BE0003625366) Still an attractive Special Situation despite +350% YTD ?

Disclaimer: This is not investment advice. The stock mentioned is relatively illiquid and potentially risky. Please do your own research !!!!

Management Summary:

SAPEC SA, despite having gained already 350% YTD is in my opinion still a highly attractive special situation. The company is in the process of selling its main business which will result in around 230 EUR net cash per share compared to a share price of 135 EUR. Deal closing is very likely and management promised to distribute a “significant amount” of the proceeds. For me this is very attractive as I expect this to happen in the first half of 2017.

SAPEC is a somewhat strange company. Although the company is listed in Belgium, business activities are almost exclusively in the Iberian Peninsula (Portugal & Spain). This is how the company describes itself:

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Update Altamir SA: No “CEO self service vehicle” but still the same fees

A few days ago, I looked briefly at Altamir, the French listed Private Equity vehicle which invests exclusively into APAX funds.

This is what I wrote about the CEO and largest shareholder Maurice Tchenio based on how I understood the fee structure:

So the “privilege” of a shareholder to invest into APX via Altamir is purchased quite expensively. This also puts the CEO investment a little bit in perspective. Yes, he has invested around 100 mn of his own money into Altamir, but in 2014, the management fees and profit share netted him close to 30 mn EUR direct, whereas the proportional profit of his share position was “only” 15 mn EUR.

Last week I got a very friendly Email from Altamir’s IR with the offer to explain the fee schedule in more detail. As a follow up they did send me a nice memo with all the details.

In a Nutshell, Tchenio only receives around 2,5 mn EUR from two sources:

– he is entitled to ~22,5% of the “carry” on the old direct investments

– plus he keeps 5% of the adivisory fee paid to the general partner for the direct investments

As the IR pointed out, Tchenio earns more in dividends on the stock than on those fees, so the alignement between him and shareholders is better then I have assumed before.

Just to recap how the fees and carried interest are structured a short list based on 2014

Fees/costs: 17 mn EUR thereof

– 6,8 mn EUR fund level fees

– 1,9 mn EUR HoldCo cost

– 8,4 mn EUR fees charged by the GP (inlc. 1,4 mn VAT), 95% passed on to APAX

Carried interest: 13 mn EUR thereof

– 4,3 mn APAX fund level

– 8,5 mn direct investments, therof Mr Tchenio as former APAX partner 1,9 mn EUR

Having clarified this, this still leaves the issue that 17 mn cost for a 600 mn portfolio is quite a lot. The almost 3% fee includes ~30% listed stocks (Altran, Albioma, GFI) and cash.

As an investor, I could replicate those stocks much cheaper than what Altamir is offering, or alternatively I could invest in a French based value fund like for instance Amiral. This is a comparison chart between the CAC Small&MidCap index, Altamir and the Amiral Sextant PEA, a smallcap value fund since 2002:


The lowest line is the index and we can see that Altamir has beaten the index by around +1,5% p.a. However the Amiral fund has beaten Altamir by a large margin despite charging also around 2% fees and a 15% performance fee. Although this is clearly no apples-to-apples comparison it clearly shows that Altamir’s perfomance is not that stellar (after fees).


So my assumption that Mr. Tchenio is pocketing a large amount of the fees was clearly wrong. Nevertheless, at least for a “non tax advantaged” investor like me, Altamir doesn’t really offer any value. The fees are much to high and justify a discount. If the right dicount is 30% or less could be discussed but paying 3% + carry on 30% listed stocks is not a real value proposition and will always lead to a discount epsecially on cash and listed companies. Again, if the discount would widen more, it would be maybe worth an investment but for now, I think I can find better investments, especially in France.

Altamir SA (ISIN FR0000053837) – French PE at an attractive discount or CEO “self-service” vehicle ?

Altamir is a French holding company whose main purpose is to invest into private equity funds. Such a structure is called in general “listed private equity”.

To be more specific, this is what they state as the company strategy:

Altamir invests exclusively with Apax Partners, in three ways:

In the funds managed by Apax Partners France:

€200m to €280m committed to Apax France VIII;

In the funds advised by Apax Partners LLP: €60m in Apax VIII LP;

Occasionally, in direct co-investment with the funds managed and/or advised by Apax Partners France and Apax Partners LLP

As investing in only one Private Equity fund company is a quite special arrangement, one asks oneself only one question: Why ? Well, this is explained in the annual report:

Apax Partners was founded in 1972 by Maurice Tchenio in France and Ronald Cohen in the UK. In 1976, they teamed up with Alan Patricof in the United States, bringing the independent entities together under a single banner, Apax Partners, with a single investment strategy and similar corporate cultures, and applying the rigorous standards of international best practices. In 1999, Apax Partners began to merge its various domestic entities into a single structure (Apax Partners LLP), with the exception of the French entity, and reoriented its mid-market investment strategy towards larger transactions (enterprise values between €1bn and €5bn). Apax Partners France opted to remain independent and conserve its mid-market positioning, targeting companies between €100m and €1bn. There are currently no cross-shareholdings or legal relationships between Altamir on the one hand and Apax Partners MidMarket and Apax Partners LLP on the other, nor between Apax Partners Midmarket and Apax Partners LLP

This closes the circle: Maurice Tchenio is the CEO of Altamir and was the founder of Apax Partners in France.

Tchenio retired from Apax only in 2010, so for quite some time he was running Altamir in parallel to being actually part of Apax himself. Maybe to provide stable funding to APAX France ? i don’t know.

So why could this be interesting ?

Looking at Altamir, there were some very positive aspects to be found:

+ CEO owns 26%, is buying (2009: 22%)

+ transparent documentation, reporting. Quarterly NAVs, detailed asset lists

+ French Midcap PE is attractive

+ discount vs. NAV (~30%, 11,20 EUR vs. ~16 EUR NAV). The discount is relatively high compared to other listed P/E stocks (currently on average ~10-15%)

+ no double leverage, net cash

+ paying dividends

+ valuation of unlisted assets relatively conservative, sales prices always higher than last valuation

+ the legal structure seems to be tax efficient for long-term holders (no tax on dividends for French shareholders if one commits to hold > 5 years)

+ track record is pretty OK as we can see in the chart: They did manage to outperform the CAC Mid& Samll cap index since inception based on their stock price, although only at a relatively small margin:

altamir vs cac mid

Actually, those points, especially the “juicy discount” in connection with the large CEO share holding makes this quite interesting

However, the most important thing in looking at such vehicles is the question: How much cost do they add and how much aligned are the interests of management and shareholders ?

And this is where things get a little bit messy. According to the annual report, direct fees are around 17 mn EUR or 2,9% of NAV. This includes in my understanding also the underlying APAX funds. This is not cheap but most likely “in line” with other “fund of fund” PE structures. But the real “fun” starts with the following issue:

The Company has issued Class B shares that entitle their holders to carried interest equal to 18% of adjusted net statutory income, as defined in §25.2 of the Articles of Association. In addition, a sum equal to 2% calculated on the same basis is due to the general partner. Remuneration of the Class B shareholders and the general partner is considered to be payable as soon as an adjusted net income has been earned. Remuneration of these shares and the shares themselves are considered a debt under the analysis criteria of IAS 32.
The remuneration payable to the Class B shareholders and the general partner is calculated taking unrealised capital gains and losses into account and is recognised in the income statement. The debt is recognised as a liability on the balance sheet. Under the Articles of Association, unrealised capital gains are not taken into account in the amounts paid to Class B shareholders and the general partner.

So this is in fact a 18% “carried interest” of the general partner (i.e. the CEO) on any realized profits of the company. So for 2014 for instance, 87 mn EUR of realzed income “shrink” to 57 mn EUR shareholder income as first the management fee gets deducted and then further 18% profit share.

So the “privilege” of a shareholder to invest into APX via Altamir is purchased quite expensively. This also puts the CEO investment a little bit in perspective. Yes, he has invested around 100 mn of his own money into Altamir, but in 2014, the management fees and profit share netted him close to 30 mn EUR direct, whereas the proportional profit of his share position was “only” 15 mn EUR.

Ok, maybe being the Ex Founder of APAX France opens the door to invest into APAX, but charging “3% and 18%” for this privilege (all in) looks quite expensive and explains some of the discount.

Activist angle:

The whole fee issue might also explain why French asset manager Moneta seems to have started in 2012 and “activist campaign” against altamir, see here and here.

They seemed to have pushed for a run-off of the company but so far only succeeded in pressuring to pay a higher dividend than before (increase from 0,10 EUR 2012 to currently 0,50 EUR).

According to Moneta’s homage, they are still active. To me it looks like that the increase in the CEO’s share position has much more to do with control than with actually believing that the shares are undervalued, but of course this could be wrong.


In principle, a listed PE vehicle specializing in French mid-market Private Equity could be interesting if the discount is significant. At Altamir however, as I have described above, the structure takes out a lot of money and one needs significant Alpha over time to break even compared to a “do it yourself” portfolio of French small and midcaps.

Tha activist involvement is interesting, but I don’t know enough about French Governance rules to assess the chances of a fundamental change.

So for the time being no investment, however if for some reason (market stress), the discount becomes really large I might be revisiting the case.

Book review: “King of Capital: The Remarkable Rise, Fall, and Rise Again of Steve Schwarzman and Blackstone”

The title of the book is actually a little bit misleading. Yes, Blackstone and Steve Schwarzman play a large role in the book, but the book also covers the story of the whole private equity industry pretty well.

After working for DLJ and Lehman, Schwarzman started Blackstone as a 2 person M&A advisory boutique in the 1980ties. As the M&A advisory business was somehow limited, Schwarzmann and his partner decided trying to get into the then fledgling private equity business. Just before they were out of money, they got their first investor money and then became on of the most succesful Private Equity players.

What I liked the book ist that it looks not only at Blackstone but at the development of Private Equity since the 1980ties in general. There is also a lot of interesting detail to be found on specific deals which I found very interesting. For instance how Blackstone failed in Germany in the Cable sector and many more deals. Blackstone in contrast to some other players invests often in cyclical companies where timing is quite important.

Most recently they also branched out big time into Real Estate. A funny side story is the fact, that Larry Fink started Blackrock as a division of Blackstone and relatively early bough the company out for a couple of hundred million USD. Blackrock is now a 65 bn USD market cap company, almost 20 bn more than Blackstone, its former parent.

The author hinself seems to be relatively neutral or even slightly positiv on the general role of private equity and collects some good arguments.

Overall, private equity investors like Blackstone are very close to what I would call “value investors”. Clearly, sometimes they extract that value petty quickly but many times they also create and grow companies like Blackrock. Overall those guys clearly have longer time horizons than most equity fund managers and one of their strengths is that they are not meassured against benchmarks on a monthly or quarterly basis. I guess that is the main reason why they can act very countercyclical.

However, Private Equity is not a one-way street to success a s the side story of Forstmann-Little shows. In the 1990s, they were the predominant player but than went all in into telecom and technology and finally did not survive. Blackstone did some Telco deals as well but nothing which would harm them big time.

As a summary, I can highly recommend this book who has a some interest on how Private Equity works and how those guys think.